Skip to main content

Pertussis 'Whooping Cough'

What is Pertussis?

Pertussis – also known as whooping cough – is an infection of the lungs and throat. It causes severe coughing that can last for weeks to months and often occurs at night.  People with pertussis often make a loud “whooping sound” when they inhale after coughing.  

What causes pertussis?  

Pertussis is caused by bacteria called ‘bordetella pertussis’. Infection usually peaks in summer and fall but can occur throughout the year. 

Is pertussis contagious?   

The disease is highly contagious. The bacteria spread easily by coughing, sneezing, or close face-to-face contact. When an infected person sneezes or coughs others can become infected when they inhale the drops or get the drops on their hands and then touch their mouths or noses. 

Anyone can get pertussis. It can be most harmful in infants younger than 6 months old before they're fully protected by immunizations, and youth 11 to 18 years old whose immunity has started to fade. The disease can be very serious in very young children and infants. Pregnant women in their third trimester and adults over the age of 60 also have higher risk for complications. With good care, most people recover from pertussis with no problems.