What is Pertussis (WHOOPING COUGH)?
Pertussis (WHOOPING COUGH) is a very contagious disease that is spread through the air by cough. It is caused by the bacteria, Bordatella pertussis. Pertussis is usually mild in older children and adults, but often causes serious problems in children under 1 year of age.
How is Pertussis spread?
Pertussis is an air borne illness. When people with Pertussis cough or sneeze tiny droplets of fluid containing bacteria enter the air. Others can inhale the droplets or get them on their hands or other objects that come into contact with their mouth or nose.
What are the symptoms?
Pertussis symptoms appear 5 - 21 days after infection. Usually only close contacts of students with pertussis become infected. The first stage of pertussis begins with cold-like symptoms (sneezing and a runny nose) and a cough that becomes much worse over 1-2 weeks. In the second stage, the cough usually occurs in strong uncontrolled coughing spasms ("coughing fits"). In young children, this is often followed by a whooping noise as they try to catch their breath. After coughing, a person may have difficulty "catching their breath", vomit, or become blue in the face from lack of air. Between coughing spells, the person may appear well. There is generally no fever. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough. This stage can last 6 weeks or longer. Adults, teens, and vaccinated children often have milder symptoms that mimic bronchitis or asthma.
How is Pertussis treated?
Pertussis is treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics can make symptoms less severe and help prevent spreading the disease. Additional comfort can be gained by keeping hydrated and through the use of a humidifier.
How can Pertussis be prevented?
Vaccine protection begins to fade in older children and adults. A vaccine is required for incoming 7th graders, and is also available for adults.
Please consider the following health recommendations:
- If you or your child has had close contact with someone diagnosed with pertussis discuss antibiotic therapy with your child's private physician to prevent illness.
- If your child comes down with cold symptoms that include a cough, talk to your child's doctor without delay. Tell him/her that there has been pertussis identified in your child's school. Report possible pertussis infections to the local health department.
- Infants under one year of age, and particularly under 6 months, are most likely to experience severe illness if they develop pertussis. When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Infants with any coughing illness should be promptly evaluated by their doctor.
- If you have children less than 7 years of age who have not been completely vaccinated for pertussis (particularly infants under one year), talk to your child's doctor about the benefits of vaccination. Pertussis given along with diphtheria and tetanus vaccine in the same shot (called DTaP or DTP). DTaP is given at 2, 4, 6, and 15 months of age, and again when a child enters school.
How serious is Pertussis?
Pertussis treatment procedures have made complications from Pertussis less likely than in the past. Complications such as pneumonia, pulmonary hypertension, ear infections, seizures, weight loss, dehydration and/or other exertion-related injuries can result from severe coughing.
Where can I get more information about Pertussis?
For more information about pertussis, see the following website or contact the Williamson County & Cities Health District at 512-930-3373.
Parents of students with a communicable disease are asked to telephone the school health office so that other students who have been exposed to the disease can be alerted. Students with diseases are not allowed to come to school while they are contagious.