Nov 18, 2013 8:42 PM by Erika Flores
TUCSON - This year, Pima County has seen a spike in cases of pertussis also known as whooping cough.
Countywide, confirmed cases are up significantly.
There are 71 cases already for 2013 compared to 46 for all of 2012.
Pertussis typically isn't life-threatening for teens and healthy adults, but it can kill infants and people with weak immune systems.
In Arizona, one or two infants die of whooping cough each year.
Seven-month-old Bryanna Robles was struggling for her life just a few months ago.
Her parents said they wanted to share their story, so that people can help prevent this disease.
When Bryanna was just three weeks old, she was rushed to the hospital with whooping cough.
"She had to be under a ventilator. They had to put a breathing tube and everything," said Bryanna's mother Jessica Contreras. "They had told us she could go into cardiac arrest, she could start bleeding to death or the blood could go to her brain and they couldn't revive her from that."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whooping cough is deadly for one in two in 100 babies who are hospitalized.
Mom and dad feared the worst.
"That was the only last chance they had to save her was the lung/ heart bypass machine," said Contreras.
"That is very distressful for the baby although we're helping survive that child, but yet it's difficult to go through," said Moira Richards, with the Tucson Medical Center.
She said she's seen an increase in whooping cough cases this year.
"We're actually in a whooping cough outbreak, and it's been going on for about 18 months," said Richards.
She said the key to preventing the disease is getting vaccinated.
"There are huge disadvantages for not getting it because of the significant morbidity for children and potentially mortality," said Richards.
Richards recommends moms to keep babies who are not old enough to get vaccinated away from crowds.
"Stay away from people that are not necessary to be around," said Richards.
Bryanna's parents said they hope people listen to that advice so that they don't have to go through what they did.
"It's not something to mess around with. It's very important to get the shot," said Robles.
Richards said pregnant women can also get the vaccine during their third trimester and that can give some immunity to the baby.