What is pertussis (whooping cough)?
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing. The infection typically starts like a cold, with a runny nose, sneezing, and mild cough. The cough lasts 1-2 weeks and then worsens, occurring in fits sometimes followed by a whooping noise, gagging or vomiting. Hear What Pertussis Sounds Like (PKIDS)
Who gets pertussis?
Pertussis most commonly occurs in children less than one year of age who have not been vaccinated. The disease can be very serious. It can cause lung infections and, less often, seizures or inflammation of the brain. In rare cases, pertussis can result in death, especially in infants.
Pertussis can also occur in older children and adults, where it can cause a milder illness that may not be diagnosed. Persons with mild symptoms can still transmit the disease.
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Why be concerned?
Pertussis is on the rise in the United States and here in Virginia. A total of 384 pertussis cases were reported in Virginia in 2010; three times the number reported in 2007.
The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. Young children need five shots against whooping cough; four shots by 18 months of age and a booster before starting kindergarten. Protection from the childhood vaccine diminishes over time. It is recommended that adolescents and adults receive a one-time dose of Tdap. Talk to your physician to ensure you and your family are up-to-date on your whooping cough vaccines.
Where can I get the vaccine?
Vaccines that prevent pertussis are available through your physician’s office and in many pharmacies. For a limited time the Health Department has free Tdap vaccine by appointment. Click here for clinic information.