GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The Centers for Disease Control declared Thursday whooping cough is on track for its worst U.S. epidemic in 50 years.
A West Michigan grandfather who knows about the infection all too well told 24 Hour News 8 he can still clearly remember the sound of the illness that took his granddaughters' life.
"On a respirator, and she was still whooping. That bacteria was still making her lungs react," McNally recalled.
Thomas McNally's granddaughter Francesca died of complication from pertussis -- also called whooping cough -- in May.
"She put up a courageous battle. She was a tough little girl, but the bacteria finally won," said McNally.
This year's cases are more than double 2011's.
"It's of epidemic proportions. This is the largest number of cases we've seen since the 1950s," said Dr. Tom Clark of the CDC.
The CDC warned people to keep up with vaccinations for the highly contagious disease, now back with a voracity not seen since 1959.
"It can be very serious in children under a year, especially under 6 months. They can develop pneumonia, seizures," said Dr. Carolyn Clear.
The CDC urged adults and especially pregnant women to get vaccinated, so they don't spread it to infants who are too young to get the vaccine.
McNally and his family are trying to spread the word about pertussis with a new foundation called Franny Strong, dedicated to the 3-month-old's life.
"It's like an arrow through your heart. Losing a grandchild is so unnatural," said McNally. "Her mission in life was to plant the seed."
The CDC on pertussis
Fred Glespie was found not guilty in the death of three children who died in an apartment fire.
Police are looking for the suspect in an armed robbery that occurred at a gas station in Plainwell Thursday night.
The rink will be open that day from 3-9 p.m.