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Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Infection and Vaccination Information

Learn about pertussis (whooping cough) infection and recommendations for vaccination.

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. A typical case of pertussis in children and adults starts with a cough and runny nose for 1 to 2 weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever, if present, is usually mild.

The disease is treatable with antibiotics. Pertussis can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening complications in infants and young children, especially those who are not fully vaccinated.

Whooping cough cases have continued to increase in San Diego County this year. As of September 15, there have been 554 confirmed cases of pertussis reported in 2010. There were 143 cases in all of 2009, and the previous high for the county was 371 cases in 2005.

The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Immunization recommendations

With county schools back in session, parents should make sure their children are properly immunized and get necessary booster shots.

The CDC recommends that children get one dose of DTaP vaccine (a combination vaccine that protects against 3 diseases: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) at the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years. The CDC also recommends that children receive a booster shot of Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) at 10 to 11 years.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends an adolescent-adult Tdap booster vaccine for:

  • Everyone 10 years or older who has not yet received it
  • Pregnant Women are recommended to receive Tdap (whooping cough booster) in their third trimester (between 27-36 weeks of pregnancy, at the earliest opportunity during this window). Tdap is recommended during each pregnancy, even when given before pregnancy. The protection that expectant moms receive from Tdap also passes to their baby in the womb. This helps protect babies during the most vulnerable period, until they are old enough to get their first whooping cough vaccination at 6--8 weeks of age
  • Other people who have contact with pregnant women or infants (including household contacts, caregivers, and health care workers)
  • Children 7 to 9 years of age who did not receive all of their routine childhood shots

Related information

For more information on pertussis infection and vaccination, see: