Pertussis (aka) Whooping Cough

Pertussis is a highly infectious illness that is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing, and may persist among a population for weeks to months. Symptoms of pertussis usually occur 5 to10 days after exposure, but can take up to 21 days to appear. Initially, symptoms are similar to a common cold, i.e., runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild occasional cough. However, instead of these symptoms passing in a week to 10 days, the cough becomes severe and spasmodic. The characteristic high-pitched “whoop” comes from breathing in after a coughing episode.

Patients with pertussis must be isolated from day care, school, work, and public gatherings for a least 5 days after the start of appropriate antibiotic therapy to limit further transmission. Although most people recover completely from pertussis, complications from the disease can be severe in high risk groups, especially infants under one year, and children who have not been fully immunized against the disease.

Most infants and children are immunized against pertussis disease by receiving a series of vaccine doses known as DTaP vaccine. However, immunity wanes as they reach adolescence. Since 2005, there has been an adolescent /adult pertussis booster vaccine (Tdap) developed to be used for prevention and control of pertussis. Beginning with school year 2012-2013, any child entering sixth grade has been required to show proof of receiving one dose of Tdap (defined as tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccine.

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