Help Stop the Spread of Pertussis

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. Although it initially resembles an ordinary cold, pertussis may eventually turn more serious and can even be fatal, especially in infants.

Initially, pertussis may not be easily recognized, but the early symptoms include:

  • runny nose
  • low-grade fever (usually minimal throughout the course of the illness)
  • mild, occasional cough
  • apnea – a pause in breathing (in infants)

After a week or two, the cough will most likely become more severe. Fits of numerous rapid coughs followed by a “whoop” sound are the most commonly recognized symptom of pertussis. Click here to hear what whooping cough sounds like. These coughing fits may be followed by vomiting and exhaustion.

Pertussis is present in Montana, and to date 294 cases have been reported in the state.

Pertussis can be prevented, and vaccination is the best way to do this. Vaccines for pertussis are available for infants, children, teens, and adults. DTaP and Tdap vaccines both protect against pertussis. DTaP is for children younger than 7 years of age, and Tdap is given to older children and adults. Children should get five doses of DTaP, one dose at each of the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 12-15 months
  • 4-6 years

Vaccine protection for pertussis does fade over time; the majority of Montana’s 2013 pertussis cases have been reported in school age children. Adolescents 11-18 years of age (preferably 11-12 years old) and adults 19-64 years of age should receive a single dose of Tdap. Infants are particularly susceptible to pertussis, so it is especially important for anyone that has close contact with an infant to be fully immunized against pertussis.

Pertussis is a serious disease, but it can be prevented. Call a CCHD Public Health Nurse at 454-6950 or visit CCHD’s Immunizations program to learn more about pertussis and vaccination. You can also visit www.cdc.gov/pertussis/ or download our printable fact sheet.