A mom whose baby has suffered through more than three weeks of a whooping cough infection posted a plea on Facebook urging other parents to get their children vaccinated, and the post has gone viral.
"I'm tired. Damn tired. I've been on duty for over three weeks having to wake every single time my baby boy coughs for fear he will stop breathing. Every. Single. Time," Rebecca Harreman, of Brisbane, Australia, wrote on her Facebook page last Friday night.
The 27-second video of her four-month-old son coughing and crying has received more than 1,290,000 views and counting.
"For those of you sitting on the fence on whether to vaccinate yourself and your kids or not... maybe this video will convince you," Harreman's emotional self-proclaimed "rant" said.
She urged anti-vaccine parents to rethink their stance. "Doing nothing goes against every cell in my body as a mother. Doing nothing is just wrong."
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a respiratory illness caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The bacteria attach to the tiny, hair-like cilia that line part of the upper respiratory system and release toxins that damage the cilia and cause the airways to swell, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
It's very contagious. Coughing, sneezing, or spending a lot of time with a person who is infected can spread whooping cough. Infected people are most contagious for about two weeks after a cough starts. Babies under the age of one are at the greatest risk for serious disease and death from pertussis and they also have the highest reported rate of the illness.
The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get the pertussis vaccine, say Mayo Clinic experts. Doctors typically give the shot in combination with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines, called a DTaP vaccine. The vaccine includes a series of five injections, typically given at two months, four months, six months, 15 to 18 months, and the last dose between four to six years. Since immunity from the pertussis vaccine tends to wear off by age 11, doctors recommend a booster shot again at that time.
The early symptoms of whooping cough may look like a cold -- a mild cough, sometimes fever, and babies may have "apnea," a pause in their breathing pattern. But as the illness progresses, babies may experience coughing fits that end in a high-pitched "whoop" sound, and they may vomit during or after coughing fits. Eating and drinking may be difficult, and they may turn blue from a lack of oxygen. About half of babies younger than one year who get the disease need hospital care, says the CDC.
In 2014, about 30,000 people in the United States became sick with whooping cough. Between 2000 and 2014, 277 deaths from whooping cough were reported in the United States and almost all (241 of the 277) were in babies younger than three months -- too young to be protected against whooping cough by a vaccine -- the CDC reported.
Harreman's post has received thousands of comments, some from supporters but also a number from "haters," she said.