Brief Points - Pertussis

  • Pertussis is also known as "whooping cough" because of the "whooping" sound that is made when gasping for air after a fit of coughing.
  • Pertussis can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults and can even be life-threatening, especially in infants. 
  • Symptoms of pertussis change over time. 

    • Early symptoms (first 1-2 weeks):  runny nose, low grade fever, malaise
    • Middle symptoms (2-6 weeks or more):  coughing jags which can be followed by vomiting or “whooping” during inspiration, fatigue
    • Late symptoms:  gradual resolution of cough, often over months
  • Coughing fits due to pertussis infection can last  for up to 10 weeks or more; sometimes known as the "100 day cough."
  • Pertussis is generally treated with antibiotics, which are used to control the symptoms and to prevent infected people from spreading the disease. 
  • The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination with DTaP for infants and children and with Tdap for pre-teens, teens and adults — protection from the childhood vaccine fades over time. 
  • Vaccination of pre-teens, teens and adults with Tdap is especially important for families with new infants. 
  • Vaccinated children and adults can become infected with and transmit pertussis; however, disease is less likely to be severe.
  • In 2010, 27,550 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) were reported in the U.S., but many more go undiagnosed and unreported.
  • Worldwide, there are 30-50 million cases of pertussis and about 300,000 deaths per year. 
  • Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of pertussis in the U.S., especially among 10-19 year olds and infants younger than 6 months of age.