Communicable Diseases - Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Communicable Disease Prevention and Control

Whooping Cough (Pertussis) - Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Pertussis is a disease of the lungs and the throat caused by bacteria. It is also known as whooping cough. The germ that causes pertussis is very easily spread from person to person. It is spread by close contact with drops of fluid from the nose and throat of someone who has the disease. Pertussis can be spread to others from the time someone catches the disease until 3 weeks after the symptoms start. If the person is treated, then this time period would be only 5 days.

Who can get pertussis?

Anyone can get pertussis, though most severe cases occur in children less than one year of age. Older children and adults may get and spread the disease, but they usually only have mild symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Low fever
  • Cough, mild at first and then a deep rapid coughing and a “whoop”
  • Vomiting after coughing
  • Coughing is worse at night

These symptoms will start 7-10 days after a person has been exposed. The symptoms can last for 6-10 weeks. Although most people recover from the disease, some people can be very ill. Pneumonia and seizures can occur.

What is the treatment?

Pertussis is treated with an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor. Some children who have not had their childhood immunization will need the vaccine. Check with your doctor. Some older children and adults who are in contact with the person with pertussis may also need to take an antibiotic.

How can you prevent Pertussis?

Every child should get pertussis vaccine at 2, 4, 6 and 18 months. A booster dose at 4-6 years completes the series.