Colorado whooping cough cases on the rise

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THORNTON, Colo. -- It's a scary statistic if you have a baby in the house.

Colorado is on track to have a surge in highly contagious pertussis or whooping cough cases.

Already, the number of cases from the bacterial disease this year has surpassed all of last year's cases.

The state health department has recorded 484 cases of whooping cough through June of this year.

There were just 416 cases all of last year.

That number will keep rising because we talked to a family of one child diagnosed just last Saturday.

"We're almost outcasts. They even don't want me to go to work," says Kevin Coulter of Thornton.

It's been a long week at the coulter household.

The family virtually shut off from the world after doctors diagnosed 2-year-old Austin with whooping cough July 7.

"Cough. Cough. Cough," little Austin hacks on the couch next to his dad.

The family says Austin was exposed by a baby his mom was watching June 21.

But that family didn’t know their baby was infected until June 28. They immediately called the Coulters.

"He can't catch his breath. He turns really red in his face. And just, the cough makes it where he can't catch his breath at all. So, it's a panicky thing. So now he sleeps in bed with us," says Kevin.

It's called whooping cough because of the deep whooping sound a patient makes trying to take a breath.

"What we worry about from the public health perspective is protecting those most vulnerable," says Lisa Miller, Director of the Disease Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Miller says those most vulnerable are babies under one year.  They can die from the disease.

Parents must make sure everyone around their baby is vaccinated.

“Babies are popular and there's lots of people who want to be around a baby. So all those people need to get an extra dose of a vaccine that contains pertussis," says Miller.

The Coulters had been vaccinated--but were forced to take a 5-day dose of antibiotics anyway--just to be safe.

"Why did I have to pay for the vaccine for everybody? The flu you don't have to do that, the chicken pox you don't have to do it," says Kevin.

He says his other two daughters, Kaytlen and Delilah, got sick from the antibiotics and had to go to the emergency room.

Now, he’s stuck with $1,200 in medical bills and suspect they’ll grow past $3,000 by the time their ordeal is all over.

There is no cure for pertussis--and no cure for the fear the family is feeling.

"How long does every peep that comes from the boy mean I have to jump up and make sure he's not going to choke to death?" questions Kevin.

On June 29, the family had told Austin's doctor he's been exposed to pertussis. But the doctor said it was just a cold and sent him home.

A week later, July 6, Austin’s parents took him back to the doctor because his condition got worse.

The next day, a test for pertussis came back positive.

“Could all of this been avoided had they done the test that day and started treatment that day? Could it not have gotten as bad as it is?” questions Kevin.

So the coulters suggest parents demand a pertussis test.

They wish they had.