Pertussis (Whooping Cough)


What is Pertussis?

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a common illness in both children and adults. Epidemics of whooping cough occur naturally every few years. In 2012, Washington State experienced a whooping cough epidemic that resulted in nearly 5,000 reported cases in the state and over 700 cases in Pierce County.

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a very contagious bacterial infection that causes a long-lasting and often severe cough. The illness usually starts with mild cold symptoms or cough, which can turn into severe coughing spells followed by gagging, vomiting and sometimes a "whoop" sound when trying to catch their breath. Infants with pertussis may eat poorly, turn blue, or stop breathing. Newborns are at the highest risk for severe pertussis complications that require hospitalization. These symptoms include difficulty breathing, pneumonia, convulsions, and even death.

Vaccination is the best prevention for whooping cough. Kids and adults can get vaccinated to help stop outbreaks and lower the risk of infection to babies who are the most likely to become seriously ill.

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