(Ohio) – Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease spread by direct contact with discharges from the nose or throat of infected persons.
Symptoms usually appear 7-10 days after exposure and initially include sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever, and/or mild cough. As the disease progresses, the cough becomes more severe with coughing episodes/fits followed by a whoop sound as the person gasps for air. This can continue for 1-2 months. While older children and adults may have milder disease, young infants are at greatest risk for requiring hospitalization and serious complications such as, pneumonia, seizures, encephalopathy (brain disorders), and even death.
Treatment with antibiotics is recommended for anyone with pertussis to treat the infected person and to prevent spread to others by reducing the length of time the person can spread pertussis. Without antibiotics, infected persons can spread the disease for 3 weeks after the onset of coughing episodes. With proper antibiotics, a person is considered no longer able to spread pertussis on the 5th day after starting treatment. All household members and close contacts of persons with pertussis are also recommended to take antibiotics even if they do not have symptoms or if they have been previously vaccinated. This recommendation helps prevent close contacts from getting sick and can stop further disease spread.
The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination, which is recommended for everyone starting at 2 months of age regardless of previous infection history and/or treatment with antibiotics. Every child should be up to date with all recommended doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) vaccine, depending on their age. Children, 11 years and older and adults should be up to date on their Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) vaccine. Additionally, pregnant females are recommended to receive 1 dose of Tdap during each pregnancy.
Staying up to date on your pertussis-containing vaccines (DTaP & Tdap) and all other recommended vaccines is the first and most important step in protecting yourself from harmful diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough). Vaccines not only protect the person who receives them, but also their family and community through a concept called herd immunity. When enough people are vaccinated against specific diseases, the germs have a harder time moving from person to person. This will help protect those individuals who are unable to receive vaccines, such as those with severe allergies or weakened immune systems (cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other health conditions).
Benefit yourself, your family, and your community by getting up to date on all CDC recommended vaccines. Vaccine schedules are available online through the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/.