What is pertussis?
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is caused by bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis can be very serious, especially in infants.
What are the signs of pertussis?
The first signs of pertussis are similar to a cold (sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever, and a cough). After one or two weeks, the cough gets worse.
How do you catch pertussis?
Pertussis is spread from person to person through the air. For example a person may catch pertussis by standing close (less than 3 feet away) to an infected person who is coughing or sneezing. A person has to breathe in droplets from an infected person to get sick. People are contagious for 21 days.
What are the complications of pertussis?
Pertussis in infants is often severe, and infants are more likely than older children or adults to develop complications. The most common complication of pertussis is bacterial pneumonia. Rare complications include seizures, inflammation of the brain, and death.
Who gets pertussis?
Anyone of any age can get pertussis. It is most common in teenagers and adults, but cases in school-aged children continue to occur. Older children and adults usually have less severe illness, but they can still spread the disease to infants and young children.
Is there a treatment for pertussis?
Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics, but treatment may not cure the coughing right away. Treatment is important to prevent spreading the disease to others. If treatment is started early, it may lessen the symptoms of illness. Cough may continue for many weeks after treatment particularly if treatment isn’t started until late in the illness. Pertussis bacteria die off naturally after three weeks of coughing. If antibiotics are not started within that time, they are no longer recommended.
Antibiotics can also be given to close contacts of persons with pertussis to prevent them from getting sick. It is important for everyone to take all of the medicine they are given by their healthcare provider.
When and for how long can a person spread pertussis?
Pertussis is most likely to spread to others early in the illness. Persons with pertussis can no longer spread the disease once they have completed 5 days of treatment with antibiotics. However, persons with pertussis who do not take antibiotics can spread the disease during the first 21 days they are sick.
Is there a lab test for pertussis?
Yes. To test for pertussis, your healthcare provider may insert a swab (like a long q-tip) into your nose. The lab will test the material on the swab to see if they can find the bacteria that causes pertussis.
Is there a vaccine for pertussis?
Yes. There are two pertussis vaccines (DTaP and Tdap). Both vaccines are given in combination with tetanus and diphtheria.
Children who are vaccinated against pertussis may still get the disease, but will generally have milder illness. Protection from the vaccine goes away over time so talk to your healthcare provider to find out when it is time for another shot.
How can pertussis be prevented?
Vaccinate all children on time. This is the best way to prevent pertussis.
Other ways to prevent pertussis are to:
Why did my healthcare provider tell me to stay home for 5 days?
It takes 5 days for the antibiotics to work. You can still spread pertussis to others until you take 5 days of antibiotics.
What will happen if I do not want to take the antibiotics?
If you do not take the antibiotics, you will need to stay away from others for 21 days after you start to become sick. This includes staying home from daycare, school or work.
Pertussis in Maine
In Maine, pertussis is most common among adolescents followed by infants younger than 1 year of age who are too young to have received all their shots. Pertussis has been reported in all 16 counties in Maine and outbreaks have occurred, particularly among school-aged children. For more specific and up to date information on the number of pertussis cases reported in Maine, please visit the Maine CDC website: http://www.mainepublichealth.gov and refer to the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program Documents.
Where can I get more information?
For more information contact your healthcare provider or local health center. You can also contact the Maine Immunization Program by calling (207) 287-3746 [ TTY Line (888) 706-3876] or visiting the website………………………….. http://www.immunizeme.org. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website - http://www.cdc.gov – is another excellent source of health information.