Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

WHAT IS PERTUSSIS?


Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a very contagious bacterial respiratory disease.  It easily spreads from person to person through coughing and sneezing.

Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe.  After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths which can result in a “whooping” sound on inhalation.  This extreme coughing can cause you to throw up and be very tired.  Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old. 

mom holding baby

PREVENTION


The best way to protect against pertussis is to get vaccinated.  

  • Babies and children should get 5 doses or DTaP at 2, 4, 6 at 15-18 months, and again at 4-6 years. 
  • A booster dose of Tdap is given at 11 or 12 years. 
  • Teens or adults who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen should get one dose. 
  • Pregnant women should get a Tdap during the third trimester of EACH pregnancy to transfer antibodies to their newborn.  This will provide protection against pertussis in early life, before the baby can get DTaP at 2 months.  Vaccinating pregnant women also makes it less likely that they could transmit pertussis to their babies. 

Make an appointment!

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Pertussis vaccines for un and underinsured people are available through Anoka County Community Health Immunization Clinics. Call 763-324-4240 to make an appointment.

Doctor and Older Patient

TESTING

  


If you have a cough illness for more than seven days or for an unknown reason, you may have pertussis so should go see a medical provider.  They will decide if you should be tested for pertussis. 

TREATMENT  


Pertussis is treated with antibiotics and early treatment is very important.  Symptoms may be lessened if treatment is started within the first couple of weeks before coughing fits start.

The Sounds of Pertussis

Listening

Pertussis is a common disease in the United States, with peaks in cases every 3-5 years.  Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of pertussis in the United States.  There are several reasons that help explain this including increased awareness and reporting, improved testing, increased circulation of the bacteria, under-vaccination of children, under-recognition of mild cases in older adolescents and adults, and waning immunity.  

During 2012, the United States had the most reported cases of pertussis since 1955.  2012 was also a peak year for Anoka County; 590 cases of pertussis were reported and investigated, the second highest number of cases in the state of Minnesota.   With pertussis naturally cyclic, we are prepared to soon see another peak.   

Disease Prevention and Control Public Health Nurses investigate confirmed cases of pertussis in Anoka County residents to help control the spread of the disease.