Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) is a respiratory disease caused by bacteria. It is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing.
- Violent coughing spells that occur repeatedly for weeks.
- Children often turn blue from lack of air and vomit at the end of the coughing spells.
- Adults cough for three weeks or longer – may gag and/or vomit.
- Complications may include pneumonia, encephalitis (brain problems due to lack of oxygen), and even death – especially in infants.
The most severe complications are usually found in children, although it is estimated that 600,000 to 900,000 adolescents and adults get pertussis every year. Not only do they suffer, but they can also infect unprotected children with whom they have contact.
Easy Steps to Protect Yourself and Your Family
- Ensure that your family members receive the vaccine that protects against pertussis.
- Make sure your child’s immunizations are up-to-date. Children should receive a total of five DTaP shots, starting at two months of age.
- If your child is 11 years or older, ask your doctor for the new Tdap shot.
- Ask your doctor if Tdap is recommended for you.