MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Doctors offices and hospitals along the Grand Strand are reporting increased diagnoses of whooping cough.
The number of whooping cough cases has doubled in South Carolina over the past year. The important thing to know about the infection is it can really go under the radar. In the beginning, it's hard to tell if you even have it, and that's when it's the most contagious.
"I was thinking maybe it was the flu and I had a flu shot," said Blair Postman, who recently contracted the whooping cough. Her doctor thought it may have been bronchitis. "He asked me a series of questions," she said. "It never occurred to me for a moment that it would be whooping cough. Not for one second."
This is the same story for many people, which is why whooping cough can be so dangerous. Doctors said it's important to make sure you're aware, because it can spread, especially if you are around small children. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says the respiratory infection forces half of all infected children to get treated at the hospital, and 18 people died from the disease last year.
In a majority of the cases reported in the last two years, the patients were between 10 and 19 years old, but adults are being affected too.
Postman says it was a scary experience.
"Though it was a dry cough, it was very deep," Postman said. "To the point where if I was eating lunch I would have to get up from the table, and sometimes to the point where you almost feel like you were going to get sick. Even though you're not nauseous at all, just because you're physically coughing so hard." Doctors believe their adult patients are losing their immunity to whooping cough, and it's probably been several years since they received the vaccine.
The source of it seems to be right at your home, as most cases are tracked back to someone who is under the same roof. Doctors tell WMBF News it can be hard for them to identify, since it takes a while for it to show its full effects. When you step into your doctor's office, make sure you are telling everything you're feeling.
"The most important thing a patient can do for their doctor in any situation, not only this, is to give as much information as you can," explained Doctor Dennis Rhoades with Doctor's Care in Myrtle Beach. "So to hold something back that you think is not important, that might be the vital piece of the puzzle that makes it finally click for your provider like, 'A-Ha, that's what you have.'"
Doctor Rhoades also says the key identifier with whooping cough is deep coughs for a long period of time. Many recommend that you protect yourself: get the vaccine, completely cover your mouth when you cough, and wash your hands frequently.