Pertussis: Whooping Cough


What is Pertussis?

Causes: Respiratory illness caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis

Transmission: Spreads from person to person usually by coughing or sneezing or spending a lot of time near someone and sharing breathing space

Symptoms: Usually develop within 5-10 days after you are exposed

Early Symptoms:

  • runny nose

  • low grade fever

  • mild, occasional cough

  • apnea- pause in breathing (usually in babies)

Later Symptoms:

  • fits of rapid coughs, followed by a ‘whoop’ sound

  • vomitting

  • exhaustion

Treatment: Antibiotics are the typical treatment; early treatment is important


Pertussis Vaccination

Who can get the vaccine?: The vaccine is recommended for everyone, the type of vaccine depends on your age. Staying up to date on immunizations is the best way to protect yourself against Pertussis.

Is the Pertussis Vaccine safe?: The Pertussis vaccine is safe. Mild reactions can occur, but they do not impact daily activities.

How effective is the vaccine?: Though immunizations are the best way to protect yourself, it is not a ‘magic bullet’. You can still get Pertussis if you are vaccinated, however, symptoms are usually more mild, the risk of complications is decreased, and the risk of spreading the bacteria to others is reduced.

When should I receive the Pertussis vaccine?: View the recommended vaccine schedules here.


Frequently Asked Questions

My child isn’t showing symptoms, but I’m concerned: It is not our recommendation to seek testing or treatment for an individual not showing symptoms even if they have been exposed. We recommend monitoring symptoms, looking for a cough lasting more than 1 week and checking your immunization status.

How will I know if I have Pertussis? There are multiple ways to test for Pertussis, your provider will determine the best option. Your provider may also prescribe treatment before testing results come back depending on risk factors.

Does my child have to stay home from school and activities? If your child has a cough, and/or has been diagnosed with Pertussis by a doctor, state and federal recommendations require they remain home until 24 hours after the 5th day of treatment or until 21 days after the onset of cough.

How do I protect those in my home? Check your immunization status and make sure you are up to date on vaccinations, practice proper cough etiquette, stay home if you are showing symptoms, and take medication if prescribed by your doctor. Keep babies and others at high risk for Pertussis complications away from infected people.

What does Pertussis look like in Jefferson County? Pertussis is always present in the county, however there is a current outbreak affecting the Festus School District.