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Information for Parents about Pertussis

 Pertussis Information for Parents


Pertussis, a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough, is a contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. These bacteria attach to the tiny, hair-like extensions that line the upper respiratory system. The bacteria release toxins, which cause inflammation (swelling).


Pertussis is a contagious disease only found in humans and is spread from person to person. People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 7–10 days after being exposed, but sometimes not for as long as 6 weeks.

The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. After 1 to 2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks.

Pertussis is generally treated with antibiotics and early treatment is very important. Treatment may make your infection less severe if it is started early, before coughing fits begin. Treatment can also help prevent spreading the disease to close contacts.

 While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool we have to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100% effective.  If you have been vaccinated, the infection is usually less severe. If you or your child develops a severe cough or a cough that lasts for a long time, it may be pertussis. The best way to know is to contact your doctor.

For more information about Pertussis, consult with your family doctor or see the following information from the Center for Disease Control.  http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/index.html