A viral video that’s hard to watch and listen to is getting attention from parents around the world for precisely those reasons.
In a powerful pro-vaccine message, an Australian mom recorded her 4-month-old son gasping for air and struggling to breathe as he battles pertussis — commonly known as whooping cough — and posted it on Facebook.
“I've been on duty for over 3 weeks having to wake every single time my baby boy coughs for fear he will stop breathing,” Rebecca Harreman writes in the accompanying post.
“For those of you sitting on the fence on whether to vaccinate yourself and your kids or not... maybe this video will convince you.”
The little boy, named Austin, has been coughing for 23 days, his mom explains. Harreman, who lives in Brisbane, told the local newspaper she was surprised a simple cough from one person could spread the disease. Pertussis is passed from person to person through secretions from coughing or sneezing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes.
In the clip, Harreman tenderly strokes her son’s head while his face contorts and tears run down his cheek as he fights to clear his airway.
This particular episode wasn’t even the worst she’s seen, she explains in her post.
“(It’s) nothing compared to watching him turn blue from coughing for so long and so much he can't take a single breath,” she writes.
The boy has had his first pertussis vaccination, Harreman writes. She then denounces people who find excuses not to get vaccinated, like believing the shots don’t work or have side effects.
“At the end of the day, I tried to do something to prevent this and not sit there and say ‘Oh well, vaccinations don't work so I'll just sit here and do nothing’... because doing nothing goes against every cell in my body as a mother. Doing nothing is just wrong,” Harreman writes.
“Please share this and spread some awareness... not nonsense. This is getting worse because people are not vaccinating!”
The video has been viewed more than a million times and shared more than 26,000 times. In a follow-up post Monday, Harreman writes her son is back in the hospital.
Babies are at greatest risk for getting pertussis and having serious complications from it, including death, the CDC warns. The best way to prevent the disease is to get vaccinated.
The agency urges expectant moms to get vaccinated — preferably between 27 through 36 weeks of pregnancy — and make sure the baby gets immunized after birth. The first dose is usually given at 2 months of age.
Family and friends who are around the infant also need to be up to date with their shots.
In the U.S., 83 percent of children ages 19-35 months have been vaccinated against pertussis, according to the CDC.
Still, almost 33,000 cases of the disease were reported to the agency in 2014, the last full year for which statistics were available. That’s a 15 percent increase over the previous year.
The CDC calls pertussis “naturally cyclic in nature,” with peaks every 3-5 years. But there’s been an overall trend of an increase in pertussis cases since the early 1980s, the agency says.
The most recent peak year in the U.S. was 2012, with more than 48,000 cases reported.