Lindsay Wilcox, NBC 5 News
A Dallas family that contracted Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, warns others to get checked.
A Dallas family is warning others after whooping cough swept through their home even though three of their children were up-to-date on their vaccines.
The Fair family first noticed the cough in their 4-year-old son, Deacon. Because their daughter Phoebe is undergoing chemotherapy for an aggressive type of brain tumor, the boys and their mom all went away on what was supposed to be a family vacation.
"We just didn't want to risk Phoebe getting sick, because she was in the middle of a chemo round. All of her counts were down. She had no immune system, and we wanted to just be overly cautious," said Nathan Fair.
All of them quickly came down with nagging coughs that wouldn't go away, and seemed to be getting worse. But after two weeks away the family's pediatrician assured them it was safe for everyone to return home.
"When I heard the cough again, after [they] had been away for so long, I was like, 'there's something wrong,'" said Fair. "For Deacon, our 4-year old, it started to develop that typical whooping cough where he was gasping for breath during coughs and he would turn blue, he would vomit, he would dry heave."
He took his family back to the doctor the next day and asked for a Pertussis test.
"When they called me on the phone, actually, Phoebe and Deacon were taking a bath together, and I ran in there while I was talking on the phone and grabbed Deacon out and separated them right away," said Nathan. "They had been together for about three days while he had full-blown Pertussis."
Dr. Cedric Spak, an infectious disease doctor with Baylor Dallas, says whooping cough is hard to diagnose because one of the hallmarks of the illness is the length of time the cough lasts.
"Now, the flipside of that is, the antibiotics work," said Spak."If you have a kid with Pertussis and you give them antibiotics that takes care of the Pertussis." He adds the cough can linger for weeks or even months.
While there are fewer cases of Pertussis this year than when it peaked between 2008 and 2009, more people are dying. There have been six deaths in Texas so far this year, two of those in Dallas County.
Doctors say it could be just an anomaly, or it could be that the strain going around is more severe.
In a letter to doctors, the state health commissioner told healthcare providers they should be offering Pertussis vaccines to all their patients, especially women who are pregnant.
While the vaccine is not going to offer 100 percent protection from Pertussis, doctors stress it will likely lessen the severity of the illness.
Nathan Fair said his three sons got sick even though they were all up-to-date on their vaccines. His 4-year-old son was lacking one dose because of his age and the vaccine schedule. His wife, Amey, did not have the recommended booster shot.