What is Pertussis?
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis 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.
How do you detect it?
Pertussis (whooping cough) can be diagnosed by taking into consideration if you have been exposed to pertussis and by doing a:
- History of typical signs & symptoms (View video example of someone with pertussis)
- Physical examination
- Laboratory test which involves taking a sample of secretions (with a swab or syringe filled with saline) from the back of the throat through the nose — see Figure 1 and video demonstrations.
- Blood test
How do you prevent it?
While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool we have to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100% effective. If pertussis is circulating in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this very contagious disease. If you have been vaccinated, the infection is usually less severe. If you or your child develops a cold that includes a severe cough or a cough that lasts for a long time, it may be pertussis. The best way to know is to contact your doctor.
Information taken from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention