We are in Safe Start Phase 2. Read our press release.

Questions about COVID-19? Visit our COVID-19 pages.

We suspended most in-person services. Read our blog post.

The Health Department is closed July 3 for the Fourth of July Holiday.

Baby looking around

What is Pertussis?

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Pertussis can make babies, kids and adults very sick.

Pertussis, or "whooping cough," is caused by bacteria. It is very contagious. It causes a long-lasting, severe cough.

Pertussis often starts with mild cold symptoms. Then it turns into severe coughing fits followed by gagging, vomiting or a "whoop" sound.

Babies with pertussis may eat poorly, turn blue or stop breathing. Newborns are most at risk. They can develop life-threatening complications—like difficulty breathing, pneumonia or convulsions—that require hospitalization.

Pertussis epidemics happen every few years. In 2012, Washington had an epidemic with almost 5,000 cases. Pierce County had 700 cases.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent pertussis. Kids and adults should get vaccinated to prevent outbreaks and protect babies.



  • How is it spread?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • Who should be concerned about pertussis?
  • I think I might have pertussis. What should I do?
  • What is the treatment?
  • How can I protect myself and my family?
  • Where can I get vaccinated against pertussis?

Free viewers are required for some of the attached documents.
They can be downloaded by clicking on the icons below.

Acrobat Reader Download Acrobat Reader Flash Player Download Flash Player Windows Media Player Download Windows Media Player Microsoft Silverlight Download Microsoft Silverlight Word Viewer Download Word Viewer Excel Viewer Download Excel Viewer PowerPoint Viewer Download PowerPoint Viewer