PUBLIC HEALTH FACT SHEET
What is Pertussis?
Pertussis is an acute infectious disease commonly known as whooping cough. It affects the respiratory tract, and is caused by a bacteria, Bordetella pertussis.
How is it spread?
Pertussis is spread by direct contact with discharge from the respiratory tract of an infected person, or by breathing in droplets projected into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
An untreated person is most infectious during the early stages of the disease to three weeks after the onset of the cough spasms. A person treated with an appropriate antibiotic is usually not infectious after a course of treatment.
How is it treated?
Infants younger than 6 months of age with severe disease often require hospitalization to manage cough spasms, feeding difficulties or other complications.
Antibiotics given during the early stage of the disease shorten communicability and may reduce symptoms. Antibiotics given after the cough spasms have started have no effect on the course of the illness, but are recommended to limit the spread of the disease to others.
Household and other close contacts to a pertussis case should also be treated with appropriate antibiotics.
How can we prevent Pertussis?
- Universal immunization of children under 7 with pertussis vaccine is critical for the control of pertussis.
- Five doses of pertussis vaccine given as DtaP are recommended.
SYMPTOMS OF PERTUSSIS
- Begins with upper respiratory symptoms, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, lack of appetite.
- Followed with a dry irritating cough for 1-2 weeks.
- Cough becomes severe and the infected person experiences cough spasms and a high pitched whoop when coughing followed by an episode of vomiting.