Pertussis (whooping cough), is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
Whooping cough is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, the patient often needs to take deep breathes which result in a “whooping” sound.
Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age. The disease is most serious in babies less than 6 months of age – many babies are hospitalised with complications such as pneumonia and brain damage.
The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated.
Generally it takes about 7 to 10 days for signs and symptoms to appear. Symptoms are usually mild at first and resemble those of a common cold: link
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Red, watery eyes
After a week the infection can progress to a thick mucus accumulates inside the airways, causing uncontrollable coughing. Severe and prolonged coughing attacks may:
- Provoke vomiting
- Result in a red or blue face
- Cause extreme fatigue
- End with a high-pitched “whoop” sound during the next breath of air
Many people do not develop the ‘whoop’ , instead developing a persistent hacking cough. Infants may not cough at all. Instead, they may struggle to breathe, or they may even temporarily stop breathing.
The vaccine consists of a series of five injections, typically given to children at these ages:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 15 to 18 months
- 4 to 6 years