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Whooping cough

What is pertussis?

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial illness that causes a cough lasting several weeks. In 1995, 36 confirmed cases were reported among New York City residents, a case rate of .5 per 100,000 people.

Who gets pertussis?

Pertussis is usually a disease of children although it can occur at any age. Most reported cases occur in children under 5 years old. In 1995, 58% of New York City's confirmed cases were 6 months of age or younger.

How is pertussis spread?

Pertussis is primarily spread by direct contact with the mucus or saliva of an infected person, or it can be spread by airborne droplets.

What are the symptoms of pertussis?

Early symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, fever, and cough - symptoms similar to a common cold. About 1-2 weeks later, the cough worsens and patients develop bursts or rapid coughing followed by a high-pitched "whoop". These coughing fits usually last from 1-6 weeks. Pertussis can cause serious illness, especially in young infants.

How soon after infection do symptoms appear?

Symptoms usually appear 5-10 days after exposure to an infected person.

When and for how long is a person able to spread pertussis?

A person is contagious from 7 days after exposure to 3 weeks after the appearance of coughing fits. People are most contagious during the early, "cold-like" stage, usually before the diagnosis of pertussis is suspected.

Does past infection with pertussis make a person immune?

Infection usually produces a lasting immunity but, occasionally, a person will get pertussis for a second time.

What are the complications associated with pertussis?

Complications of pertussis can include pneumonia, ear infections, seizures, problems of the nervous system and brain, and death.

What is the vaccine for pertussis?

The vaccine for pertussis is usually given in combination with diphtheria and tetanus. This combination vaccine should be given at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age, and at 4 years of age.

What can be done to prevent the spread of pertussis?

The single most effective control measure is maintaining the highest possible vaccination levels in the community. Treatment of patients with certain antibiotics, such as erythromycin, can shorten the time they are contagious. People who have pertussis should stay away from young children and infants until they have been treated.

For more information on where your child can be vaccinated, call 311.