Pertussis (whooping cough) is highly contagious and one of the most commonly occurring vaccine‐preventable diseases in the United States.
Pertussis is most severe for babies, who often catch the illness from a family member or other caregiver.
Pertussis symptoms can be different depending on how old you are or if you’ve been vaccinated.
Seeking treatment when pertussis symptoms first start is important.
Pertussis occurs in a cyclical pattern, with the number of cases peaking every 3 to 5 years as people’s immunity from the vaccine wears off and the bacteria begin circulating again.
Even with the success of pertussis vaccines, people continue to get pertussis in the US.
In the first few months of 2010, several states are reporting increased cases of pertussis as compared to the same time last year.
Everyone should make sure they are up to date with recommended pertussis vaccines (DTaP for infants/children and Tdap for adolescents/adults). If not sure, call your doctor to see what’s best for you and your family.
Infants and children are recommended to receive the childhood pertussis vaccine, or DTaP, at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. A fourth shot is given between 15 and 18 months of age, and a fifth shotis given when a child enters school, at 4–6 years of age.
Since 2005, there has been an adolescent/adult pertussis booster vaccine (Tdap) that can be
used for prevention and control of pertussis.
o The protection received from DTaP, the childhood vaccine, fades over time. Adolescents
and adults need Tdap, even if they were completely vaccinated with DTaP as children.
o Pre‐teens going to the doctor for their regular check‐up at age 11 or 12 years should get
a dose of Tdap.
o Adults 19‐64 years old who didn't get Tdap as a pre‐teen or teen should get one dose of
Tdap instead of their next Td booster.
o The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10‐year mark since the last Td booster, so
it's a good idea for adults to talk to a healthcare provider about what's best for their
o Getting vaccinated with Tdap is especially important for family members with and
caregivers of new infants.
Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents, or other caregivers who
might not even know they have the disease. If you are planning on becoming pregnant or are
currently pregnant, talk to your doctor about getting the Tdap vaccine. Don’t risk spreading this
disease to your baby. Make sure all people around your baby are vaccinated with Tdap including
siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nannies, caregivers, childcare staff, etc.
If pertussis is circulating in the community, there is still a chance that a fully vaccinated person
(of any age) can catch this very contagious disease. This is because no vaccine is 100% effective.
However, when a vaccinated person gets pertussis, the infection is usually less severe.
Keep young infants away from people with cough illness. Likewise, people with cough illness
should always stay away from young infants.
o Make sure patients of all ages are up to date on pertussis‐containing vaccines (see
immunization schedules at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/default.htm).
o Consider the diagnosis of pertussis in their patients and close contacts. The diagnosis of
pertussis is often delayed or missed. In the youngest infants, atypical presentation is
common – the cough may be minimal or absent and the primary symptom can be
o Test for pertussis in their patients, using the correct tests (see
o Treat appropriately for pertussis. Because pertussis may progress rapidly in young
infants, treat suspected and confirmed cases promptly.
o Quickly report cases of pertussis to their local public health department to assist with
preventing additional cases.
Public health professionals can try to raise awareness among the community about pertussis
vaccines, working with local immunization coalitions and other partners to maximize outreach.
Public health professionals should continue with pertussis surveillance and reporting.
PERTUSSIS RESOURCES (6/25/2010)
CDC pertussis vaccines website
CDC pertussis web feature
o http://www.cdc.gov/features/pertussis (English)
o http://www.cdc.gov/spanish/especialesCDC/TosFerina/ (Spanish)
CDC Tdap adolescent podcast
CDC Pre‐teen Vaccine Campaign / materials
CDC It’s Their Turn Initiative / materials
CDC/Medscape video commentary (recognition/treatment of pertussis; Tdap recommendations
video available early July)
CDC RSS Feeds for Office of Women’s Health (women’s health RSS and kids’ health RSS)
CDC Pertussis Chapter ‐ Surveillance of Vaccine‐Preventable Diseases textbook
CDC Guidelines for the Control of Pertussis Outbreaks
APHL brochure for laboratorians (summary of pertussis diagnostics)
California Department of Public Health pertussis website and materials
Silence the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign (PKIDs)
o http://www.pkids.org/dis_pert_stsop.php (English)
o http://www.pkids.org/dis_pert_span.php (Spanish)
Sounds of Pertussis Campaign (March of Dimes & sanofi pasteur.)