Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

A Vaccine Preventable Disease

Identification and Definition

Pertussis AKA as Whooping Cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. Besides a cough that resembles a whooping sound, runny nose, nasal congestion and sneezing are also a symptom. Babies are the most susceptible and it causes them to cough uncontrollably without being able to breath.

History of Pertussis

The first outbreak of Pertussis were seen in the 16th century but was not identified until 1906. Before the vaccination there were about 250,000 cases of Whooping Cough the the U.S. The Pertussis vaccine was first introduced in the 1940s coupled with the diphtheria and tetanus vaccine (DTP).

Signs and Symptoms of Pertussis

Whooping Cough starts off as a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing, and a mild cough


After 1-2 weeks is when symptoms start to worsen:

  • severe coughing begins
  • this cough can turn into a series of coughing fits that can continue for weeks
  • cough forces the air from the lungs causing a "whooping" sound when they inhale
  • babies can not cough at all sometimes and then are unable to breath.

Transmission of Pertussis

Whooping Cough is very contagious and babies are highly susceptible. It can be spread by coughing or sneezing in close contact with others who breath in the contagion. Many babies can get infected by their parents, older siblings, and other care givers who might not even know they have the disease.

Pertussis Complications

In infants-especially those who are under 6 months old-complications from pertussis are more severe including symptoms such as:


  • pneumonia
  • slowed or stopped breathing
  • dehydration or weight loss due to feeding difficulties
  • seizures
  • brain damage



Cases of Pertussis of teens and adults have complications due to the whooping cough-although most teen and adult cases are seen with recoveries

These complications are usually side effects due to the strenuous coughing, such as:


  • bruised or cracked ribs
  • abdominal hernias
  • broken blood vessels in the skin of the whites of your eyes

Pertussis Control Measures

Whooping cough can be prevented in a few ways. One of them being the DTP vaccine that combines Pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus vaccination in one shot that infants receive in early age. Along with infants receiving the vaccine, pregnant mothers should as well so they can start protecting their baby early on. This is a very preventable disease and it is important to protect young children from developing symptoms-since they are exposed to a lot of bacteria and have a much lower immune system then teens and adults do.