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Health Topics - What is Pertussis (Whooping cough)?
Posted 4/24/19

Pertussis is a very contagious disease that is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis and only found in humans.


Pertussis spreads from person to person by coughing or sneezing or spending a lot of time near one another where you share a breathing space.


Symptoms of Pertussis include:

Early:

  • Cold-like symptoms (Runny nose/mild-occasional cough)
  • Low-grade fever

Later:

  • Paroxysms (fits) of many, rapid coughs followed by a high pitch “whoop“ sound
  • Vomiting (throwing up) during or after coughing fits
  • Exhaustion (very tired) after coughing fits

Infected people are most contagious up to about 2 weeks after the cough begins. Antibiotics may shorten the amount of time someone is contagious.


You can help relieve symptoms of pertussis by:

  • Following the schedule for giving antibiotics as prescribed by your child’s doctor.
  • Keeping you home free from irritants—as much as possible—that can trigger coughing, such as smoke, dust, and chemical fumes.
  • Using a clean, cool mist vaporizer to help loosen mucous and soothe the cough.
  • Practice good handwashing
  • Drinking fluids to stay hydrated
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Stay home from school as directed by physician

While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100% effective.