Tens of thousands of Americans contract pertussis every year, but only about 10 to 20 of them, usually infants, die from the respiratory illness, commonly called whooping cough.

S.C. pertussis cases


2010: 399

2011: 141

2012: 230

2013 (to date): 136

Charleston County

2010: 54

2011: 18

2012: 9

2013 (to date): 10

Berkeley County

2010: 13

2011: 0

2012: 7

2013 (to date): 6

Dorchester County

2010: 25

2011: Not reported for less than four cases

2012: 9

2013 (to date): 12


In 2010, Lancaster resident Felicia Dube's child was one of them.

“I find that a lot of people feel like it can't happen to them. It can,” Dube said. “We miss Carter every day. It's been three years and I miss him every day.”

Carter Dube died Jan. 28, 2010, from whooping cough, which his mother said he probably picked up from a friend or family member at home. He was 7 weeks old.

Felicia Dube now advocates up-to-date tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccines for everyone. It's a $25 booster shot that she thinks would have saved her son's life.

“As a mom, it's a guilt that I carry every day because I wasn't informed,” Dube said.

Vaccination requirements vary state to state. A new South Carolina regulation now requires that all rising seventh-graders must receive the Tdap vaccine before starting the school year.

The vaccine, administered in the arm, is a booster to the whooping cough vaccine given to infants.

Its protection can diminish by the time children are 10.

The vaccine is also recommended for children older than 11 years old, individuals who spend time around babies, pregnant women and anyone who has not received a tetanus or Tdap booster shot in the past 10 years. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control vaccinated more than 7,000 people for free at county health clinics in August to help parents comply with the new rule, including 4,704 seventh-graders statewide.

In the Lowcountry specifically, DHEC vaccinated 1,640 people total, including 1,034 seventh-graders.

Still, the vaccination is only about 85 percent effective, DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said, and outbreaks of whooping cough are popping up around the Upstate.

School officials said Tuesday that one case has been confirmed at Clemson Elementary School in Pickens County and a number of cases have been reported at five elementary schools in Anderson County.

It's not just South Carolina, either. There has been an uptick of reported whooping cough cases throughout the South.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there have been more pertussis cases to date in 2013 in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and South Carolina compared to the same time last year.

In South Carolina, there have been 136 probably and confirmed whooping cough cases since January, the health department reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.

Editor's note:Earlier versions of this story contained incorrect attribution for the whooping cough case at Clemson Elementary School in Pickens County. School officials, not the state health department, confirmed that a student contracted the respiratory illness.