Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is very contagious and can cause serious illness and even death. Infants are extremely susceptible to whooping cough because they are too young to be fully vaccinated. It is recommended that infants and young children receive the recommended five shots on time. Adolescent and adult vaccination is also important, especially for families with new infants.
Whooping cough is a very contagious disease and caused by a type of bacteria called bordetella pertussis. Among vaccine-preventable diseases, whooping cough is one of the most commonly occurring ones in the United States.
There is high vaccine coverage of whooping cough for children nationwide. However, protection from the childhood vaccine fades over time. Adolescents and adults need to be revaccinated, even if they were completely vaccinated as children.
Also, whooping cough vaccines are very effective but not 100 percent effective. If whooping cough is circulating in the community, there is still a chance that a fully vaccinated person can catch this very contagious disease. When you or your child develops a cold that includes a prolonged or severe cough, it may be whooping cough. The best way to know is to contact your doctor.
Whooping cough can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The disease starts like the common cold with runny nose or congestion, sneezing and maybe mild cough or fever. But after one–two weeks, severe coughing begins. Infants and children with the disease cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they're forced to inhale with a loud "whooping" sound.
Whooping cough is most severe for babies; more than half of infants less than 1 year of age who get the disease must be hospitalized. About one in five infants with whooping cough get pneumonia (lung infection), and about one in 100 will have convulsions. In rare cases (one in 100), whooping cough can be deadly, especially in infants.
People with whooping cough usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.