Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a common illness in both children and adults.
Whooping cough is a very contagious bacterial infection. It causes a long-lasting and often severe cough. The illness can start with mild cold symptoms or cough. Then, the ill person may experience severe coughing spells followed by gagging, vomiting and sometimes a "whoop" sound when trying to catch a 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.
Epidemics of whooping cough occur every few years. In 2012, Washington State had an epidemic with almost 5,000 reported cases. Pierce County had 700 cases.
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
Learn more about whooping cough:
What is whooping cough and how is it spread?Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes a long-lasting and often severe cough. Whooping cough is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Infants often get whooping cough from family members or care givers who do not know they are sick. An infected person can spread whooping cough for several weeks if the illness is not treated.
What are the symptoms of whooping cough?The symptoms usually begin 5 to 10 days after exposure to an infected person (average 7-10 days). Whooping cough usually starts with mild cold symptoms or cough, which can turn into severe coughing spells followed by gagging, or vomiting and sometimes a 'whoop' sound when trying to catch your breath. Babies do not always cough, but they may eat poorly, turn blue or stop breathing. Babies under one year old are also at highest risk for severe pertussis complications that require hospitalization. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, pneumonia, convulsions or even death.
Who should be concerned about whooping cough?Everyone should be concerned about whooping cough, but the disease is more common in infants and young children who have not been immunized or who have not yet had enough doses of vaccine to be fully protected. If you have frequent contact with young infants or children, you should be concerned and take appropriate measures to protect them from the disease.
What should I do if I think someone in my family has whooping cough?If someone has a persistent cough, especially if it lasts longer than two weeks, or if the coughing occurs in 'spells' followed by difficulty catching the breath or gagging, it could be whooping cough. If you think you or one of your family members has whooping cough, call your healthcare provider and ask about the disease. Medical providers can check for pertussis by taking a swab of the nose. Try to stay away from other people until treated or until another diagnosis proves it is not contagious.
What is the treatment for whooping cough?A patient with whooping cough must take an antibiotic for five days to become non-contagious. A person diagnosed and treated for whooping cough should not return to day care, school, work, etc., until the antibiotic has been taken for at least five days. Not all antibiotics are effective against whooping cough. Antibiotics in the erythromycin 'family' are the most effective.
How can I protect myself and my family from whooping cough?Vaccination is the best prevention for whooping cough. Babies need three doses of DTaP (diptheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) the first year of life (two, four and six months) and then booster doses at 12 to 18 months and at age 4 to 6 years. Adolescents age 11 get a booster of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) and adults who have never had this vaccine should get one. Pregnant women should get a Tdap with every pregnancy, between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. The vaccine given during pregnancy helps the baby to be born already immunized until they received their own vaccine starting at two months. This is important, because most of the babies that die of pertussis are only a few weeks old. Anyone who cares for babies less than 12 months old, like child care providers and grandparents need Tdap.
Where can I get a whooping cough vaccine in Pierce County?See our list of free/low cost whooping cough vaccine for adults, or call the health department for locations near you at (253) 798-6410.