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What is Pertussis

 

Pertussis is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. This illness is notorious for uncontrollable, violent coughing fits that can make breathing difficult. Pertussis is often referred to as whooping cough due to the “whooping” sound people make as a [1]result of gasping for air after having several coughing fits. Symptoms are usually mild at first, can worsen over time and include serious complications especially in infants.

 

Infants younger than 12 months of age who are either unvaccinated or haven't received the full vaccination series for pertussis are at the greatest risk for developing serious complications or dying from this disease.  In addition, teenagers and adults who have not received their pertussis booster vaccine are more susceptible to illness should an outbreak occur.

 

 

 

Save time at the pharmacy!

While you’re in getting a flu shot, ask your pharmacist for an immunization evaluation to determine what other vaccines you may need.

How Pertussis spreads

 

Pertussis spreads from person to person through droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, or talking. It may also be spread through exposure to surfaces and objects contaminated with the pertussis bacteria.  Most babies who develop pertussis are infected by other household members, grandparents or caregivers who typically don’t even realize they have the disease.

 

Once infected, it takes approximately 7-10 days for symptoms to appear. An infected person is most contagious for about 2 weeks after their cough begins. Antibiotics may help to shorten the amount of time someone is contagious.

Symptoms

 

Symptoms of pertussis can vary between babies, adolescents and adults. They are usually mild at first and are similar to those of a common cold:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild, occasional cough (may be minimal or non-existent in babies)
  • Apnea (a pause or stop in the breathing pattern) in babies
 

 After 1-2 weeks, signs and symptoms begin to worsen:

  • Persistent hacking cough – this is often the only symptom in adolescents and adults
  • Rapid coughing fits followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound
  • Vomiting during or after a coughing fit
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Becoming red or blue in the face from coughing
  • Increase in coughing at night

Complications

 

Complications associated with pertussis are more serious in babies and young children, especially if they have not received all recommended pertussis vaccines. These complications usually require hospitalization and can include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Convulsions
  • Apnea (slowed or stopped breathing)
  • A disease of the brain called encephalopathy
  • Death
 

Teens and adults can also develop complications, although they are typically less serious, especially if they have been vaccinated. Some of these complications include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Passing out
  • Rib fractures from severe coughing

Prevention

 

The best way to protect yourself from pertussis is by getting vaccinated. There are two types of vaccines available to help protect against pertussis, along with some other diseases:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccines – for babies and children under 7 years of age
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines – for older children and adults
 

The CDC recommends pertussis vaccination for all babies and children, preteens and teens, and pregnant women. In addition, adults who have never received a dose of Tdap should also be vaccinated.

 

Additional tips to protect yourself from pertussis:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Alcohol based hand sanitizers are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Stay away from sick people.
  • Eat a healthy, well balanced diet.  Exercise, get plenty of rest and manage stress.
  • If you are sick, limit contact with others to prevent spreading it.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough. Immediately throw it away.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and do not share eating utensils, dishes or glasses with others.