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Pertussis / Whooping Cough (vaccine-preventable)

Disease Information

Pertussis, or whoopingcough, is a respiratory infection that spreads easily. It is caused by a bacterium that is found in the mouth, nose and throat of an infected person. There is a routine childhood vaccine to prevent whooping cough. It reduces the likelihood of infection in infants and children.

Pertussis can occur at any age, but often occurs in preschool or school-age children. Whooping cough is a concern for pregnant woman and infants because infants are at higher risk for severe disease that can make it difficult to breathe, so that hospital care is required.

Whooping cough can be serious — even fatal — for infants. Problems teens and adults may have include pneumonia, weight loss, loss of bladder control, passing out and rib fractures.

Whooping cough usually starts with cold-like symptoms. These include sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Within two weeks, it causes fits of coughing so bad that it can be hard to catch your breath. The classic sign of pertussis is a "whooping" sound made at the end of an episode of violent coughing. This is what gives pertussis its common name of "whooping cough." A thick, clear mucous may be coughed up. These episodes may recur for one to two months and are more frequent at night.

Older people and partially immunized children generally have milder symptoms. Getting Tdap is especially important for pregnant women during the third trimester of each pregnancy. This allows mom to make antibodies, which she passes to the baby across the placenta. This protects baby from the moment of birth.

Childhoodadolescent and adult immunization is recommended.

Whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics.

Pertussis Factsheet from OHA (pdf)

Watch: Tos ferina - Pertussis video in Spanish

Disease Reporting

What is required?

Health Care Providers and Clinical Laboratories

Health care providers and clinical laboratories are required by law to report cases and suspect cases of pertussis to local health departments within one working day of identification. 

Cases are subject to restriction on school attendance, day-care attendance, and patient care while in the communicable stage of the disease. Worksite, child-care and school restrictions can be removed once the case has completed the first five days of a full course of antibiotics, or after 21 days have passed since cough onset.

For Local Public Health Authorities


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See Also

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Healthcare Providers, Clinical Laboratories and Local Public Health Authorities

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