What is Pertussis?

Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory system that can cause episodes of severe coughing. Pertussis is usually mild in older children and adults, but it often causes serious problems in babies.

What are the symptoms of Pertussis?

At first, symptoms are like the common cold – mild fever, runny nose and cough.  After one to two weeks, the cough gets worse and usually starts to occur in strong “coughing fits”. After coughing, your child may have difficulty catching his or her breath, vomit or become blue in the face due to lack of air. This type of coughing may last for six or more weeks. The first symptoms usually appear within five to 21 days after a person is infected.

How is Pertussis spread?

Pertussis is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Touching a tissue or sharing a cup used by someone with Pertussis can also spread the disease.  

How is Pertussis prevented?

The spread of Pertussis can be slowed through good health practices. Encourage your child to wash his or her hands for 15 seconds using soap and warm water before meals and after sneezing or coughing. Encourage your child to sneeze or cough into their sleeve rather than a tissue or hand. If a tissue is used for the cough or sneeze, throw the tissue in a waste receptacle; don’t reuse.

The best way to prevent it is through vaccinations. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP. The Pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap. Both protect against Pertussis, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Your doctor, local health department or the Texas Department of State Health Services can provide additional information.

Should I contact my physician?

Pertussis can be a very serious disease, particularly for infants less than one year of age.  It is easily spread by droplets in the air that form when a person talks, sneezes, or coughs. The following recommendations are from Tarrant County Public Health: Symptomatic persons should be excluded from group settings and evaluated by a health care provider. Readmission to group settings should occur only after 5 days of antibiotic therapy, or when Pertussis is ruled out by the health care provider. Review your child’s immunization records and catch up any that are due. Adolescents and adults should receive Tdap vaccine. Close contacts of a person with Pertussis should receive prophylactic antibiotics regardless of immunization status.

It is important that we work together to reduce any potential spread of this infection, and we will partner with you in any way we can to protect your children. Through our combined efforts, we can continue to provide a safe and healthy school environment for all children.