Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Information
What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The initial symptoms of whooping cough are similar to the common cold, including a runny nose and mild cough, but over 1-2 weeks the cough worsens. People with whooping cough may have coughing fits, and during those fits they may gasp (“whoop”) and vomit or feel like they’re choking. Whooping cough is most dangerous for infants. Infants with whooping cough may not cough at all, but have trouble breathing and gag, gasp, turn blue, or vomit.
How is whopping cough spread?
Whooping cough spreads from person to person by coughing or sneezing or when spending a lot of time near one another where you share breathing space. People with pertussis remain contagious until they have been coughing for at least 21 days or they have completed 5 days of antibiotics.
How can whooping cough be treated?
Whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics if given within 21 days of when coughing began. It is important to be treated early in order to reduce the severity of symptoms and to prevent the spreading of the disease.
Antibiotics can also be given to high risk individuals who have been exposed to whooping cough. These high risk individuals include:
- People that live in the same house as someone with whooping cough
- Any infants that have been around someone with whooping cough
- Women in their third trimester of pregnancy that have been around someone with whooping cough
- All persons with pre-existing health conditions that may be exacerbated by a pertussis infection (such as immuno-compromised persons or moderate to severe medically-treated asthma)
- People who often come into contact with any of the above (such as older sibling or parent of an infant)
How can whooping cough be prevented?
The best way to protect against whooping cough is to be vaccinated. Children should receive a series of 5 DTaP shots, beginning when they are 2 months old. A booster vaccine, Tdap, is recommended for individuals 11 and up.
To prevent any spreading of whooping cough, people with whooping cough should stay home and avoid close contact with others until they have completed 5 days of antibiotics or until they have been coughing for at least 21 days.
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