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Why whooping cough is making a comeback

After a week with a dry cough, Karen Andes’ son started experiencing middle-of-the-night coughing fits so severe, he couldn’t talk. He returned home from his first trip to the urgent care clinic in mid-July with an inhaler and a five-day course of steroids.

The coughing fits didn’t abate, and after a few days, the Decatur, Georgia, teenager jumped out of bed and got his mom’s attention by clapping his hands, unable to get any words out. He gasped for air, tears running down his face.

>> On AJC.com: 5 things every parent should know about immunization

His mother took him to another doctor, who suggested he may have reflux.

But a combination of Andes’ medical background (she’s an assistant professor of global health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University) and a mother’s intuition told her something else was tormenting her son — pertussis, also known as whooping cough. The family requested the child’s name not be published. 

Whooping cough, a potentially life-threatening childhood illness, all but disappeared in the 1940s after a vaccine was developed. But in recent decades, the illness has been making a comeback. Changes in the vaccine and waning immunity are likely contributing to the resurgence of the illness, according to experts.

In recent years, there have been outbreaks not seen since the 1950s.

In 2012, the United States had the highest number of whooping cough cases in more than 50 years with 48,277 reported cases and 20 deaths. Most of the deaths occurred among infants, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Georgia, there were 318 cases in 2012, which included no deaths. Since then, there have been three whooping cough-related deaths (two in 2013 and one in 2016) in Georgia, and all of the deaths involved babies.

Last year, there was a total of 163 reported cases of whooping cough in Georgia, according to the CDC. And this year through Aug. 21, there has been a total of 102 cases, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

>> On AJC.com: What you need to know about mumps

The highly contagious respiratory illness is not always on the radar of doctors and can be mistaken for a cold, bronchitis, reflux. The Georgia Department of Health said it’s not uncommon for someone to see two, even three doctors before getting a proper diagnosis.

Andes insisted on getting her son tested for whooping cough. Results from a nose culture came back positive.

“At first, I felt relieved, and even a bit proud of myself,” said Andes, “but then the reality sunk in that we may be in for more difficult nights.”

The older vaccine for whooping cough was phased out in the late 1990s. It carried a high risk of serious but temporary side effects like pain, and swelling at the site of injection, as well as serious complications such as febrile convulsions, which are fits or seizures caused by a sudden change in a child’s body temperature, and loss of consciousness. One study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente’s Vaccine Study center in Oakland, Calif., found the newer pertussis vaccine, while safer and with fewer side effects than the older version, is not as effective.

The 2016 study from Kaiser Permanente’s Vaccine Study Center found that the booster vaccine known as Tdap provides moderate protection against whooping cough during the first year after vaccination, but its effectiveness wanes to less than 9 percent after four years among teenagers who have received only a newer form of the whooping cough vaccine (known as acellular pertussis vaccine) as infants and children.

>> Vaccines help prevent flu deaths in children, CDC study finds

Pertussis can cause serious illness in people of all ages and can even be life-threatening, especially in babies. About half of babies under 1 year of age who get pertussis need treatment in a hospital, according to the CDC. The illness can have a lasting effect on lung function, leaving people with shortness of breath.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers, including scientists from the University of Georgia, found in a new study while some people lose immunity relatively quickly, the vaccine can be protective for many decades. The study, published in a March issue of Science Translational Medicine, also found the dwindling number of people still alive who survived pertussis infections in the days before vaccination, and therefore gained lifelong immunity, is also playing a role in the resurgence. When the vaccine was first introduced in the 1940s, there were very high rates of vaccination, which led to an overall decrease in transmission.

Senior author Pejman Rohani, who has a joint appointment in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and the Odum School of Ecology, said the number of people who are susceptible to contracting pertussis is slowly rising — setting the stage for an increase in the number of new cases, especially in older individuals. This is known as the “end of the honeymoon” period, he said.

And even though the effectiveness of vaccines may wane over time, experts say people should still make sure to get them. Skipping the vaccines, Rohani said, “would be a terrible idea, especially the routine scheduled and maternal vaccination.”

>> CDC warns of measles in 21 states, including North Carolina, Florida

He added that researchers are still working on deciding whether people should get more frequent booster vaccinations.

Meanwhile, Andes’ son, who was fully vaccinated against whooping cough, completed a round of antibiotics and is doing better. But he still has a lingering cough, and a full recovery could take months.

After the diagnosis, Andes notified City of Decatur schools about her son’s illness. It was over summer break, but he was participating in a high school band camp and was around other high school students. City of Decatur Schools spokesperson Courtney Burnett said a letter was sent to parents of students at Decatur High School informing them of the illness. Burnett said the school system is not aware of any other whooping cough cases.

Andes, who also got whooping cough (likely from her son) but was treated early before symptoms got severe, is sharing her family’s story to help raise awareness about whooping cough.

She wants families to know the following: don’t assume you can’t get whooping cough because you’ve been vaccinated; whooping cough not only affects babies; early treatment is key (not only may it help reduce the severity or the length of the illness, it prevents spreading the illness to others); and whooping cough “doesn’t always whoop,” particularly in adolescents and adults. Her son burped for air after each attack. She checked his fingernails — and they were purplish-blue near the cuticles because he wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

“Each episode was very scary. It was absolutely terrifying,” she said. “Our journey is not over yet, but I have learned a lot.”

Vaccination recommendations

The CDC recommends pertussis (also called whooping cough) vaccines for people of all ages. Babies and children should get five doses of DTaP for maximum protection. DTaP is a vaccine that helps children younger than age 7 develop immunity to three deadly diseases caused by bacteria: diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis).

Health care professionals give a dose of DTaP at 2, 4 and 6 months, at 15 through 18 months, and again at 4 through 6 years. They give children a booster dose known as Tdap to preteens at 11 or 12 years old.

>> Read more trending news 

Teens or adults who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen should get one dose. Getting Tdap is especially important for pregnant women during the third trimester of each pregnancy. It’s also important that those who care for babies are up-to-date with pertussis vaccination. 

You can get the Tdap booster dose no matter when you got your last regular tetanus and diphtheria booster shot (Td). Also, you need to get Tdap even if you got pertussis vaccines as a child or have been sick with pertussis in the past.

The impact of anti-vaxxers on the comeback of whooping cough

Even though children who haven’t received DTaP vaccines are at least eight times more likely to get whooping cough than children who received all five recommended doses of DTaP, they are not the driving force behind the large-scale outbreaks or epidemics, according to the CDC. Even so, their parents are putting their children at greater risk of getting whooping cough and possibly spreading the illness to others.

Whooping cough: Know the signs

Whooping cough starts like the common cold, with a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe a mild cough or fever. But after one to two weeks, severe coughing can begin and can include many rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound. It’s important to note not everyone with pertussis will cough and many who cough will not “whoop.” Babies may not cough at all though. Instead, they have trouble breathing.

Source: CDC

Grieving mom searching for bag made from dead son's Army uniform, believes it was stolen

Judith Church of Massachusetts is on the hunt for a cherished item that her family believes was stolen from her car one week ago.

>> Watch the news report here

Church is searching for a bag given to hear after her son's sudden death in 2011, made from the Army uniform he wore during a yearlong deployment in Iraq.

"I have been going crazy; I'm searching everywhere," Church said

Brian McSharry was a rookie Brockton police officer and a member of the United States Army Reserve.

>> Read more trending news 

"That was his last uniform, so I carried it with me all the time, and his best friend made it for me," Church said.

The last time anyone saw the bag was over a week ago, when Church's husband, Daryl, said it was in a parked car at a Rhode Island go-kart track.

"I think somebody went in the car, and they saw it in there and thought it had expensive stuff in it," Daryl Church said. "There's really nothing in it. It means more to her than it does to anyone else."

The bag is an easy one to spot, with "McSharry" and "U.S. Army" printed above the side pockets.

Along with those words, the phrase, "Smile like you mean it" is sewn into the shoulder strap.

>> On Boston25News.com: Father takes action after viral video of child climbing pool ladder

McSharry's cousin, Kristy Brown, has been spreading the word on social media and said the family just wants the bag back with no questions asked. 

"I would hope other people would hear about it, and If they saw it, just send it," Brown said. "That’s it. Things inside can be replaced, but the bag itself can't be."

5 things every parent should know about immunization

Within the first few months of your child's life, your pediatrician will likely start talking to you about immunizations. Even if your house is stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap, it's important to know what options are out there to keep your kid safe from diseases that could have harmful consequences.

>> On AJC.com: What you need to know about mumps

With all of the talk out there about the pros and cons of getting your child immunized, here are five things you need to know about how the process works and why doctors recommend it:

What is immunization? 

The World Health Organization defines immunization as the process that makes a person immune or resistant to an infectious disease. The most common way to achieve this is by giving the person a vaccine. Over the past 200 or so years, doctors have been able to use vaccines to fight diseases that used to kill millions of people, including young children, every year.

How does immunization work? 

Vaccines are usually given through a needle injection, though Verywell noted there are some that can be given through the mouth or the nose.

According to WebMD, once a vaccine enters the body, it helps the immune system develop antibodies that fight the virus or bacteria that causes that specific illness. (The process can take a few weeks, so your child won't instantly become immune.) The next time your child runs into that virus or bacteria, his body will have the tools it needs to fight off the illness.

Does my child really need to be vaccinated?

If you plan to enroll your child in a daycare or school, there may be minimum vaccination requirements before they can get started. According to he National Vaccine Information Center, exceptions can be made based on certain medical or religious grounds, but an application is required.

If you don't have any medical or religious concerns, vaccines are strongly encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control to help slow the progress of infections. When more people get vaccinated against a certain disease, outbreaks can be prevented because the germs won't be able to travel as fast through the population. This is called community immunity.

>> Read more trending news 

Which vaccines are recommended for kids?

The CDC website lists 16 potentially harmful diseases that their recommended vaccines can protect against. Those diseases are:

Each vaccine should be taken during a specific age range, so be sure to talk to your child's doctor to find out the right time to bring them in for their shots.

What are the risks involved with vaccines?

KidsHealth says the most common reactions to vaccines are fever and redness, swelling and soreness where the shot was given. In rare cases, patients have had seizures or severe allergic reactions. If you're concerned about side effects, Parents Magazine has some tips for easing the sting and making your child's first immunization experience as comfortable as possible.

If you have questions about vaccines or side effects, it's best to talk to your child's doctor.

'Sexist' quote removed from Texas school wall after social media backlash

A Texas school has removed a controversial quote from one of its walls after it sparked complaints on social media.

>> Read more trending news 

According to the Houston Chronicle, the quote, which read, "The more you act like a lady, the more he'll act like a gentleman," had been on display above a row of lockers at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The words are "commonly attributed to Sydney Biddle Barrows," aka the "Mayflower Madam," who pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution in the 1980s, USA Today reported.

A photo of the quote made the rounds on social media Friday.

"This is the wall at Gregory-Lincoln Middle School in Houston ISD," Twitter user Lisa Beckman wrote, according to USA Today. "It's perpetuating horrible gender stereotypes, shaming women, and relinquishing boys of all responsibility. It's sexist, mysogonistic (sic), and discriminatory! I'm horrified." 

>> See the tweet here

Beckman's tweet quickly went viral, with nearly 9,000 shares and 23,000 likes by Sunday morning.

KTRK reported Saturday that the quote had been taken down.

"Please be advised that the quote on the wall of Gregory Lincoln PK-5 Education Center has been removed," the Houston Independent School District said in a statement. "Overnight, the wall decal letters were taken down, the wall was floated out, and new slab of drywall was installed and painted."

School board member Diana Davila tweeted a photo of the blank wall Saturday.

"This was removed last night," she wrote. "Thanks to the people who brought it to our attention."

>> See the tweet here

Boy dying from leukemia wants racing stickers for his casket

UPDATE: The family of Caleb Hammond said it greatly appreciates the overwhelming response, but have asked the public to discontinue sending racing stickers. In an Aug. 22 Facebook post, the family showed an image of the delivered packages. Those who would like to contribute are directed to the family’s GoFundMe campaign.

Read below for the original story. 

A terminally ill Iowa boy who wants to decorate his casket with racing stickers is asking the public for help.

According to the Des Moines Register, Caleb Hammond, 11, of Oskaloosa, was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2017. After months of unsuccessful chemotherapy treatments, a bone marrow transplant and medical scares, including a week in a medically induced coma with heart failure symptoms, he and his family recently decided to stop treating his illness and spend time together, the newspaper reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Now Caleb, a racing fan who loves to visit Southern Iowa Speedway, has a final request: for the public to send him racing stickers.

"We're trying to decorate his casket," his uncle, Chris Playle, told the Register.

Meanwhile, Team Kids With Cancer 46-7 made one of Caleb's dreams come true by getting him behind the wheel of a hobby stock race car. He drove in a six-lap race Saturday, the Register reported.

>> See the family's Facebook post about the event here

Read more here.

Mom saves 2 kids moments before toy jeep bursts into flames

A battery-powered toy jeep burst into flames just moments after kids had been playing with it, a Massachusetts mom says.

>> Watch the news report here

Michelle Kline said she bought the SportRax Awesome XL for her 3-year-old, Quincy, and his little sister, Nellie, but never expected it to pose such a danger to her family.

"Part of the reason we bought the jeep that we bought was because the weight was ... I think it was 105 pounds the company told us it was rated for," she said. "It was four-wheel drive."

>> Georgia dad dies saving daughter, 4, from oncoming car, family says

Kline said her two children were driving up the neighbor's lawn when smoke began to pour out from under the hood. That's when she pulled them out of the toy car without thinking twice. 

"They were buckled in, and they are both little, so neither of them could have gotten themselves out," Kline said.

As soon as the kids were safe, the jeep went up in flames, burning for several more minutes.

"It was alarming how quickly it went up. It went from a little bit of smoke to a full-on fire within, like, two minutes; that was the scary thing," Kline said.

North Andover Fire Chief Bill McCarthy said the fire appeared to be related to the toy's battery, but figuring out the exact cause of the fire may be nearly impossible. 

>> Read more trending news 

"The mother did a good job of noticing something was wrong," McCarthy said. "We notified the Consumer Product Safety Commission as well as the Fire Marshal’s Office just to see if they’ve had something similar."

As for the kids, Kline said they don't seem to be bothered about losing their toy, but she said she has no plans to replace it.

"That’s sort of the bigger thing: You don't want this to happen to someone else," Kline said.

Staples manager fired after accusing woman pregnant with twins of shoplifting

Staples said in a statement Monday that it has fired the manager who assumed an expecting mother had shoplifted at one of its stores in North Carolina.

>> Watch the news report here

Shirell Bates told WSOC-TV that she now regrets leaving her home on Friday for back-to-school shopping at the Pineville store.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Pregnant Staples shopper says she was wrongfully accused of shoplifting, hiding items under shirt

"Being pregnant is already high-risk, and having to deal with that, just additional stress that I don't need,” Bates said.

Bates said she learned that the manager was fired on social media.

Bates said a police officer asked her if she was shoplifting while she was checking out of the store.

"Mid-transaction, a police officer approached me and insisted he wanted to speak with me,” Bates said. “He asked what was under my shirt.”

Bates is pregnant with twins.

"Initially, I thought he was joking, so my response was, 'Twins,’” Bates said. “I'm 34 weeks with twins. I'm having a boy and a girl."

Bates said the officer didn’t believe her the first time, and he asked her again.

"At that point, to avoid him asking me again, I actually lifted my shirt just a little bit, just to expose my belly, so he could see that I'm just a regular pregnant person buying school supplies,” Bates said.

Pineville police said a Staples manager approached the officer and asked him to speak with Bates because the manager believed Bates may have been “concealing merchandise.”

>> More on WSOCTV.com: Manager at North Carolina Staples fired after accusing pregnant woman of shoplifting

"When I confronted her about what happened, she admitted that, 'In the past, we've had a lot of people putting school supplies or merchandise in their clothes and hiding, so I asked the officer to reach out to you,’” Bates said.

Staples issued the following statement:

“On Friday at our Pineville location a Staples’ manager mistakenly assumed a customer was shoplifting and reported this assumption to a police officer visiting the store. The police officer questioned the customer and quickly confirmed there was no theft. Based on the outcome, Staples’ issued a full refund to the customer.

Staples has since conducted a full investigation into the matter, and determined that the manager in question did not follow correct protocol and also failed to adhere to our existing policy on how to interact with our customers. As a result of this finding, the manager has been terminated and Staples has apologized to the customer. At Staples, we want all customers to feel welcome in our stores, and work with our associates to foster an inclusive culture. As an organization, we would like to apologize to the customer as that was not the case in this instance.”

Bates said she planned to contact Staples' corporate office and possibly seek legal action.

"You pretty much jumped the gun without any type of evidence, except my stomach is large,” Bates said. “That’s not fair. No mom should have to go through that."

>> Read more trending news 

Staples said Monday that the manager did not follow the correct protocol and did not adhere to the company's policy on interacting with customers.

The company said it has since apologized to Bates.

Bates said she would like Staples to provide sensitivity training for all employees.

She also hopes Staples improves its communication with customers who submit formal complaints.

Police investigating after sex offender allegedly got phone numbers, texted children

Police in Michigan are warning parents after a sex offender was able to get the phone numbers of two children through unknown means.

Update 2:35 p.m. EDT Aug. 13: Police initially said the phone numbers were obtained through the online game Roblox. In an update Friday, authorities said investigators were unable to determine how the numbers were obtained.

In a statement, officials with Roblox said the entertainment platform “supports imaginative play in a safe, supportive environment.”

“We can assure you that we take safety on our platform seriously and have features and processes in place to protect our community from sharing personally identifiable information,”  the statement said. 

Among other measures, the company uses automated technology to monitor and “when appropriate filter” the communication between users. The company also has restrictions surrounding what users under 13 years old can share.

>> On WSOCTV.com: Mom alarmed about gaming site after 7-year-old's virtual character sexually assaulted

Original report: According to the Marshall Police Department's Facebook page and WWMT, a "concerned parent" contacted authorities after the children, who are 9 and 10, began receiving text messages "from an unknown subject." Police described the conversations as "non-offensive and short," WWMT reported.

>> On WSBTV.com: Are your kids safe? Predators reaching children through online games

"Officers researched the number that was contacting the children and discovered it belonged to a subject on parole and who is also on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry," the department posted Saturday. "The suspect was arrested by local parole agents for the offense."

>> See the post here

Police also issued the following warning:

>> Read more trending news 

"Popular online cell phone games such as 'Roblox' and 'Minecraft,' when played online in public mode, allow other players to obtain personal information from each other," the department wrote. "Parents are encouraged to monitor their children’s online use of games, who they are speaking with, and the dangers of speaking with unknown subjects."

Read more here or here.

21 Savage provides free school supplies to over 2,500 students

More than 2,500 people lined up in the Georgia heat last week to share in the generosity of 21 Savage.

>> Man shot at back-to-school event attended by rapper 21 Savage

The Atlanta rapper hosted his third annual “Issa Back 2 School Drive” on Aug. 5 to benefit students from DeKalb County Schools. The event, which last year attracted about 700 people, outfitted students in grades K-12 with backpacks, shoes, uniforms and school supplies.

Kids and their families snaked along the sidewalk of the 285 Flea Mart off Glenwood Road in a shopping center the lanky “Whole Lot” rapper, 25, said he used to hang around as a teen. Many of the beneficiaries also received free haircuts and food from tents stationed in the parking lot.

It was a scene that made 21 Savage quietly proud.

>> Read more trending news 

“I might rap about a lot of stuff, but that’s just a reflection of what I’ve been through,” he said while seated in his manager’s truck a few feet away from the throng of fans. “In real life, everything I do, I want to bring everybody together. I want to give back to the community, help the kids, get them uniforms, books, book bags, everything they need ... just do better. That’s where it starts, the kids.”

U.S. Rep. Henry "Hank" Johnson, D-Georgia, and his wife, DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, also attended to check out the scene.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

The event and supplies were funded by 21 Savage and his Leading By Example Foundation. Other sponsors included City National Bank, Spotify, Epic Records and 10:22 p.m. Records.

During a recent appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” 21 Savage launched a “Bank Account” campaign to help young adults learn financial responsibility and donated $1,000 to 21 kids in partnership with the nonprofit organization Get Schooled.

Read more here.

Parents say airline never notified them about unaccompanied children's diverted flight

Two parents in Orlando are upset after they say their children were stranded in Atlanta without their knowledge while the children were flying as unaccompanied minors on a Frontier Airlines flight from Iowa.

They say no one contacted them after the plane carrying their children was diverted to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport due to weather and that Denver-based Frontier should have called them to ask if it was okay to drive the children to a hotel before they decided to make that move.

>> Read more trending news

Etta, age 7, and Carter, age 9, were flying July 22 from a visit to see their grandparents in Des Moines, Iowa, back home to Orlando, scheduled to arrive at 10:46 p.m. 

But storms in Orlando caused a ground stop, and the flight diverted to Atlanta late at night.

The children stayed at a hotel with an airline worker and shared a room with four other children. It was the children’s first flight without their parents.

The incident highlights what can go wrong when children fly unaccompanied -- even on a nonstop route -- if a flight is diverted to an unfamiliar city.

While the Frontier flight diverted to Atlanta, sometimes flights get diverted to an airport in a small town where the airline may not even have staff.

“This was the first year I said okay, they’re old enough to fly on their own, they know their phone number, they know their address,” said Etta and Carter’s mother Jennifer Ignash. But when the flight got diverted, “it was like, okay, panic.”

Frontier charges a $110 unaccompanied minor fee per child and does not allow unaccompanied minors on connecting flights.

The airline said in keeping with its policy, “the children were attended to at all times by a Frontier supervisor, placed in a hotel room overnight, and provided with food. Our records show that the children were in contact with their mother before being transported to the hotel and with their father the following morning before leaving on the continued flight. We understand how an unexpected delay caused by weather can be stressful for a parent and our goal is to help passengers get to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible.”

Ignash, who was waiting at the Orlando airport for her children that night, said multiple flights were diverted from Orlando, and “when that happens, it’s just a madhouse.” She got word that the children’s flight was diverted, and tried calling Frontier’s customer service line but says they couldn’t get her information about her children.

Ignash says she didn’t get a call from a Frontier employee until the next morning.

But an older unaccompanied minor on the flight let the children use his cell phone to call and text their parents.

“Without that child, we would have had zero idea where our kids were,” Ignash said.

Ignash says an employee using a personal vehicle took the children to a hotel, where six kids from the flight stayed in adjoining hotel rooms. The parents say they do not know who the employee was who drove the children or stayed with them in the hotel room.

“We never gave approval for that to happen,” Etta and Carter’s father, Chad Gray, said.

Alan Armstrong, an Atlanta aviation attorney Gray contacted, said he thinks there should be procedures and personnel at the airport to handle the problem.

“They just make it up as they go along,” Armstrong said.

Ignash said if parents decide to let their children fly as an unaccompanied minor, they should “understand what the airline’s policy and procedure is and get a direct contact.”

Gray said the worst part was not knowing what was happening.

“It was a bunch of circumstances that came into play all at the same time. I just don’t think Frontier is prepared to handle all those at once,” Gray said. “You like to minimize the risk that your kids have and you want to protect them. And not having any control over the process whatsoever, I think, is really, really frustrating.”

WSBTV.com contributed to this report.

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