Whidbey whooping cough victim: 'It's awful'

Kerry Rosenkranz's hoarse voice is evidence of the hours she spends coughing each day. She and her 11-year-old daughter, Erin, recently fell victim to pertussis. They live in Greenbank, which was hit hard with the recent pertussis epidemic.

Pertussis is also known as whooping cough. It's a very contagious bacterial infection that causes violent fits of coughing.

"It's awful," Rosenkranz said. The coughing fits are so bad that she can't breathe, and she can't sleep at night for coughing. Cough medicine hardly takes the edge off.

"It starts out as a cold but amplifies," Rosenkranz explained.

Erin contracted pertussis from some girls on her soccer team. Members in the Admirals Cove swim program she attends also tested positive for pertussis.

At Erin's age, she was due for a booster shot but contracted pertussis before she could receive one. Most members of her age group are in the stage of needing a booster soon.

For adults, protection against pertussis has only been part of the vaccine since 2005. Rosenkranz had received the vaccine not including pertussis prior to that year.

"The vaccine is the only way to get immunity," Rosenkranz said. Her family will get the vaccine as soon as they can.

Rosenkranz's husband was exposed to pertussis but didn't contract it because he received the antibiotics as soon as he realized his exposure.

"That's a really positive thing," Rosenkranz said. "If you know you've been exposed to it, get in and get treatment."

Treatment consists of a 5-day dose of antibiotics.

"So treatment's not too scary," said Rosenkranz.

However, coughing fits still happen during and after treatment because the body takes a while to heal.

"It is not a fun deal," said Rosenkranz.

Rosenkranz advised everyone to get their booster shot if they haven't already. Also, coughing and runny noses should be checked out by a doctor.

"I wouldn't wish this on anyone," said Rosenkranz.

All cases of pertussis should be reported to the Health Department at 360-679-7351. For more information on pertussis, visit

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