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Pertussis – also known as whooping cough – is a contagious infection of the respiratory tract (breathing tubes). It causes severe coughing that can last for weeks. People with pertussis often make a loud “whooping sound” when they inhale after coughing.

Most cases of pertussis can be prevented by a vaccination (shot).

Anyone can get pertussis. It adversely affects 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.


Pertussis is caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The disease is highly contagious.

Complications in Children

Many infants who get pertussis must be hospitalized. In rare cases it can be life threatening.


Is the pertussis vaccine safe?

What are the side effects of the pertussis vaccine?

Why do I need a pertussis booster?


The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. There are vaccines for infants, children, preteens, teens and adults.


Symptoms of pertussis begin within one to two weeks of exposure to the bacteria. At first a pertussis infection can seem like a common cold.


Call your doctor if you think that you or your child has pertussis.  Your doctor will take a medical history and do a physical exam.