What is Pertussis?

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a contagious infection of the lungs and airways. It is caused by bacteria called bordetella pertussis. Pertussis is a disease that happens year round everywhere in the world.

Pertussis causes serious coughing fits that can lead to choking or vomiting. The coughing can be so intense that a “whooping” sound happens when you try to catch your next breath.

Without treatment, pertussis can last for weeks or months, and can cause brain damage or even death. It is most dangerous for children under 1 year old, especially if they are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated. It is important that you and your children receive all of your vaccinations for protection of yourself and others.

What is my risk?

Anyone can get pertussis, but it is most dangerous for children under a year old. Adults and older children that are around infants and young children should be vaccinated. Speak with one of our health specialists to understand your risk of contracting pertussis.

Since immunization programs begin at 2 months, infants under 2 months of age are very vulnerable. The children who are most at risk for pertussis are not vaccinated, or under-vaccinated.

How is it transmitted?

The bacterium Bordetella pertussis causes pertussis. It is spread easily through droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing by an infected person. Indirect spread through contaminated objects occurs rarely, if at all. Anyone can catch pertussis and spread it.

Pertussis is most contagious during the first two weeks after coughing starts. People are no longer contagious after 5 days of appropriate antibiotic treatment.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptoms of pertussis may show up seven to 10 days after being infected with the bacteria but could appear up to 28 days after infection. Pertussis starts out with a mild fever, runny nose, red watery eyes and a cough. It leads to serious coughing fits that can last for two to 8 weeks. The coughing fits may cause difficulty breathing, choking and vomiting.

For older children and adults, pertussis symptoms may be less severe. They may appear as cold-like symptoms with a constant cough that lasts longer than a week.

In some cases, pertussis can lead to worse complications like pneumonia.

Can pertussis be treated?

Pertussis is usually treated with antibiotics. Keep away from children and infants until you take at least five days' worth of antibiotics.


Get vaccinated The pertussis vaccine is usually given as part of a combined vaccine with other diseases.