Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program

Vaccine-preventable Diseases - Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

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General Information:

Pertussis is a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough that is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. Pertussis is spread from person to person through the air. A person may even catch pertussis by standing close (less than 3 feet away) to an infected person who is coughing or sneezing. A person has to breathe in droplets from an infected person to get sick.

The first signs of pertussis are similar to a cold (sneezing, runny nose, fever, and a cough). After one or two weeks the cough gets worse and occurs in sudden, uncontrollable bursts where one cough follows the next without a break for breath. The person may look blue in the face and have a hard time breathing and after a coughing spell the person may throw up. Pertussis can be very serious, especially in infants. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease. 

There are two pertussis vaccines available (Dtap and Tdap). Please see the vaccine information statements (VIS) below.

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