38-Day-Old Baby Dies After Persisting Cough

Baby dies after persisting cough; many experts urge whooping cough vaccination.

ByABC News via GMA logo
April 27, 2010, 6:29 PM

April 28, 2010 -- Baby Callie was a miracle baby to Katie and Craig VanTourhout of South Bend, Ind. After four miscarriages, Katie VanTourhout got pregnant again in 2009 and this time it was a success.

It was an easy, healthy pregnancy, VanTourhout said her doctors told her. Her doctor made sure she had flu shots, she said. And then, six weeks before she was due, Callie Grace was born on Christmas Day.

"Once they said we were in the clear, we jumped for joy and we were just giddy all the time," VanTourhout said.

But when Callie was a couple weeks old, she developed a cough, so the VanTourhouts checked in with their pediatrician.

Although Katie VanTourhout said doctors told them it was nothing too serious, the cough persisted, and during a return visit to the doctor, Callie stopped breathing and was rushed to the hospital.

Two days later, at 38 days old, Callie stopped breathing again and could not be saved.

Callie somehow caught a highly contagious bacterial disease called pertussis, better known as whooping cough. While many believe that the disease is relatively rare in the United States, especially after the introduction of the vaccine in the 1940s, cases of whooping cough rose steadily from the 1980s to 2005, especially among teens and babies less than 6 months old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2008 there were more than 13,000 cases of whooping cough, 18 of which were fatal, in the United States, according to the CDC. The most common complication associated with whooping cough is bacterial pneumonia.

"If we looked carefully enough we'd find pertussis in all age groups, but it's more serious in infants with smaller passageways," said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chief of pediatric infectious disease at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.

However, a schedule of vaccines could significantly reduce the amount of cases, she said. The CDC recommends five doses of DTaP, or tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine by age seven.