Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes coughing with little or no fever. Coughing may result in vomiting or gagging. Some infected persons make a “whoop” sound when the person breathes in after coughing.
- Symptoms appear between 6 to 21 days (average 7-10) after exposure to an infected person.
- Usually starts with cold symptoms (runny nose, low-grade fever, cough that becomes progressively worse).
- Episodes of severe coughing can last 1-2 months.
- Vomiting may occur after coughing spells.
- Adolescents often exhibit different symptoms of the disease, often without the classic “whoop”, making it more difficult to recognize.
- The person may look and feel healthy between coughing spells.
- Immunized school children, adolescents, and adults have milder symptoms than young children.
- Secondary bacterial pneumonia is the most common complication and the cause of most pertussis-related deaths.
- Most dangerous to unvaccinated infants less than a year old who can catch the illness from family members or babysitters and may develop pneumonia, seizures, and rarely, brain damage or death.
- Serious complications are less likely in older children and adults.
- It is spread to close contacts through droplets the mouth and nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
- Persons treated with antibiotics are contagious until the first 5 days of appropriate antibiotic treatment have been completed.
- Unimmunized or inadequately immunized people are at higher risk for severe disease.
- Many cases occur in adults and older children because protection from the vaccine lasts only 5 to 10 years after the last dose.
- Pertussis vaccine is used to protect young infants from severe disease and death, but even vaccinated persons can get less severe pertussis infections.
- Recent surges of whooping cough outbreaks have been seen in middle- and high-schools around the country.
- Antibiotics active against the pertussis bacteria are used to treat and prevent the spread of pertussis to others.
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Rest to help your body to fight the infection.
- Pertussis vaccine is included in DTaP vaccines. These vaccines are intended for children younger than 7 years. They are included in the recommended childhood immunizations and include an initial series of 4 injections plus a booster.
- In 2005, 2 new tetanus toxoid-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccines were licensed. These vaccines are the first acellular pertussis vaccines that can be given to persons older than 7 years. Adolescents age 11 through 18 years who were immunized as children should receive one booster dose of Tdap.
- An adult vaccine could stem the increase in pertussis cases among adolescents and adults in the U.S. and thus prevent the prolonged cough illness which can result in pneumonia and cracked ribs in those populations. It may also decrease the transmission of pertussis to infants who are particularly vulnerable to severe illness, complications, and death resulting from whooping cough.
- Persons with pertussis should stay home and avoid close contact with others until 5 days of antibiotic treatment for pertussis have been completed and they are no longer contagious.
- Persons with any cough and illness should avoid contact with infants and expectant mothers, including visiting or working in labor, delivery, and nursery areas of hospitals and in child care settings.
- Avoid sharing with infants any food, toys, or other object that may be contaminated with secretions from the mouth or nose of another person.