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Whooping Cough (Pertussis) is a respiratory bacterial infection that effects the lungs and breathing passages.
Whooping Cough (pertussis) can occur at any age, but severe illness is more common in infants. Infants suffer the highest rates of hospital admission and death.
Whooping Cough (pertussis) is a very contagious disease and is spread from person to person through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated during sneezing and coughing. Infants often get pertussis from older brothers and sisters, parents, or other caregivers who might not even know they have it.
The best way to protect adults, children, and babies from pertussis is to get the recommended vaccine and booster shots, which are safe.
Vaccines are first given at two months of age, then again at four, six, and 15-18 months, and again between four to six years old. A booster shot also is recommended for children by age 11. In Rhode Island, Grade 7 students are required to get this booster. Teens and adults who haven’t yet received their boosters should get one as soon as possible. When in doubt about whether you’re up-to-date on your shots, speak with a doctor to find out what’s best for you and your family.
Keep anyone with a cough away from babies and newborns. Also make sure everyone who comes in contact with infants is up-to-date on their shots.
Pertussis usually starts with cold-like symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose. It’s often diagnosed after a cough lasts more than one to two weeks.
The cough is usually not harmful to adults and older children, but can be dangerous for babies. Sometimes children have a hard time catching their breath. It’s not unusual for children to spit up, vomit, or be exhausted after coughing. Infants might also have breathing problems or develop serious medical conditions such as pneumonia, seizures, and brain damage.
Pertussis is also known as “whooping cough” because of the “whoop” sound children or other patients sometimes make during coughing.
Pertussis (whooping cough) can be diagnosed by your healthcare provider. Diagnosis is through a laboratory test which involved taking a swab from the back of your nose.
Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics. Close contacts of patients known to have pertussis may also be prescribed preventive antibiotics.