What is pertussis?
known as whooping cough, is a vaccine-preventable disease that lasts for
many weeks and is typically found in children,
but adults can also contract this illness.
Through December 7, 2012, 122 cases have been reported to the
Health Department. In a typical year, 41 cases
are reported in Northern Kentucky.
Pertussis is highly contagious with up to
80 percent of
susceptible household contacts
developing the disease after exposure.
What are the symptoms
of the pertussis?
The early symptoms of
pertussis include: runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild
After a week or two of
these cold-like symptoms, however, a persistent cough develops which
occurs in explosive bursts, sometimes ending with a high-pitched whoop
and vomiting. Between fits, the child appears well.
continue to occur for six to 10 weeks
and are more common at night. Pertussis can also lead to other
complications, such as pneumonia and ear infections, particularly in
infants. Pertussis is most severe in the first six months of life. Death from pertussis is rare.
How is pertussis
Pertussis is spread by
droplets expelled from an infected person’s nose or mouth.
Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older
siblings, parents or other caregivers who might not even know they have
If I’ve been exposed to
pertussis how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
Symptoms usually appear
in seven to 21 days, but most frequently show up in seven to 10 days.
How long is a person
with the pertussis contagious?
A person with pertussis
is contagious from the time early cold-like symptoms develop through
three weeks after the persistent and explosive bursts of coughing begin.
Those treated with antibiotics are contagious until five days after
effective treatment begins.
How can I keep from
The best way to prevent
pertussis in infants and young children is the DTP/DTaP vaccine. It is
recommended that children receive five doses of the vaccine, with the
first three doses given at one to two months intervals, starting at 8
weeks. The fourth dose should be at least six months after the third
dose, commonly at 15-18 months of age. A fifth dose (booster) is given
between 4 and 6 years of age. Vaccination should be completed by age 6.
In addition, a vaccine
for older children and adults is now available. Tdap vaccine is
available in two brands:
available for ages 10 through 18 years
available for ages 11 through 64 years
vaccine is preferred over Td vaccine as a booster at age 11 to 12 years
as adolescents are susceptible to pertussis due to waning immunity.
Anyone who is interested
in being vaccinated against pertussis should contact his/her primary
medical provider. The vaccines are also available through the Health
Department, with the following guidelines:
Children age 18 and
under can get the Tdap or DTap vaccine for free through the Vaccines For
Children program, provided that they have a Medical card, KCHIP, no
health insurance or health insurance that doesn't cover the vaccine.
Adults age 19 to 64 can
get the Tdap booster at the Health Department's county health centers
for a $4 administrative fee.
To get the vaccine from
the Health Department, please call the
county health center most convenient for you to schedule an
What should I do if I
think I have pertussis?
See your medical provider for testing
and treatment. Tell the
provider if you or your child has been around others with cough/cold
symptoms or that you’ve heard pertussis is in your community.
Since pertussis remains contagious for three weeks after
the coughing begins, it is advised that you do not go to work or school
during that time, if antibiotics are not prescribed. If you are treated
with antibiotics, you can return to school or work after completing five
days of the prescribed antibiotics.
If I have pertussis,
how can I prevent others from getting it?
Avoid coming into close contact with
anyone until five days of antibiotic treatment for pertussis have been
What treatments are
available for pertussis? How serious is the disease?
Pertussis is usually treated with
antibiotics. Pertussis is frequently complicated by pneumonia and ear
infections, particularly in infants. Pertussis is most severe in the
first six months of life and can result in breathing difficulties,
gasping and seizures. Death from pertussis is rare but can occur in
about 1 percent of infants younger than 2 months of age.
Where can I get more
information on pertussis?
For more information
online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control at
Or, for more
information on DTaP or Tdap (the vaccines for pertussis) or any other
concerns about pertussis, please call the Health Department’s
Epidemiology Services at 859.363.2070.