Pertussis also known as whooping cough is very contagious and can cause serious illness especially in infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated.

Pertussis by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Among vaccine-preventable diseases, pertussis is one of the most commonly occurring ones in the United States.

In 2008 there were more than 13,000 reported cases including 18 deaths from pertussis nationally.

Although pertussis vaccines are effective they are not 100% effective. If pertussis is circulating in the community, there is still a chance that a fully vaccinated person can catch it.

When you or your child develops a cold that includes a prolonged or severe cough, it may be pertussis. The best way to know is to contact your doctor.


The disease starts like the common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe mild cough or fever. After 1–2 weeks, severe coughing begins.

Infants and children with the disease cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they’re forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound.

Pertussis is most severe for babies; more than half of infants less than 1 year of age who get the disease must be hospitalized. About 1 in 5 infants with pertussis get pneumonia (lung infection), and about 1 in 100 will have convulsions.

In rare cases (1 in 100), pertussis can be deadly, especially in infants.

How Pertussiss is Spread:

People with pertussis spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.

Those who breathe in the pertussis bacteria can be infected.

Many infants who get pertussis are infected by parents, older siblings or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.


The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. The recommended pertussis vaccine for children is called DTaP. This is a safe and effective combination vaccine that protects children against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. For maximum protection against pertussis, children need five DTaP shots.

The first three shots are given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. The fourth shot is given between 15 and 18 months of age, and a fifth shot is given when a child enters school, at 4–6 years of age.

Parents can also help protect infants by keeping them away as much as possible from anyone who has cold symptoms or is coughing.

Vaccine protection for pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria fade with time. There are boosters for adolescents and adults that contain tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (called Tdap).

Pre-teens going to the doctor for their regular check-up at age 11 or 12 years should get a dose of Tdap. Adults who didn’t get Tdap as a teen should get one dose of Tdap instead of the tetanus booster.

Pregnant women should get one dose of Tdap postpartum before leaving the hospital. Getting vaccinated with Tdap is especially important for families with and caregivers of new infants

DTaP and Tdap vaccinations are available every Wednesday at the Jackson County Health Department for those that qualify.

Contact the Health Department at 304-372-2634 for additional information.