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What is Pertussis?

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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?
  • What are the symptoms of whooping cough?
  • Who should be concerned about whooping cough?
  • What should I do if I think someone in my family has whooping cough?
  • What is the treatment for whooping cough?
  • How can I protect myself and my family from whooping cough?
  • Where can I get a whooping cough vaccine in Pierce County?

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