Pertussis

Pertussis is a bacterial infection. It is also called whooping cough. The bacteria invade the lining of the respiratory tract and may block your airways. Pertussis is highly contagious, and in some cases, very serious. Pertussis is treated with antibiotics.

  • Causes

    Pertussis is caused by specific bacteria. It is spread by:

    • Inhaling droplets from the sneeze or cough of a person infected with pertussis
    • Having direct contact with the mucus of a person infected with pertussis

  • Definition

    Pertussis is a bacterial infection. It is also called whooping cough. The bacteria invade the lining of the respiratory tract and may block your airways.

    Pertussis is highly contagious, and in some cases, very serious. Pertussis is treated with antibiotics.

    Upper Respiratory Tract
    Normal Upper Airway During Sleep
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:

    • Swab of nose and throat for culture and other tests to detect the bacteria
    • Blood tests

  • Prevention

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chances of getting pertussis include:


    • Not being
      immunized
    • Living in the same house or working in close contact with someone infected with pertussis

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms usually begin within a week or two after exposure.

    Initial symptoms last about 1-2 weeks. They may include:

    • Runny nose and congestion
    • Sneezing
    • Mild fever
    • Mild cough
    • Watery, red eyes

    The second stage of pertussis is called the paroxysmal stage. This stage usually lasts 1-6 weeks, but can last much longer. Symptoms may include:

    • Severe coughing
    • Long episodes of coughing that start suddenly and may end with a forceful inhale or 'whoop' (the whoop does not occur in all people)
    • In severe cases, coughing may cause a person to have trouble breathing or turn blue from lack of oxygen
    • Coughing episodes may result in vomiting

    During the final stage, the cough gradually gets better over 2-3 weeks. Episodes of coughing can still occur during this stage.

    Complications in infants and young children may include:

    • Pneumonia
    • Seizures
    • Periods of no breathing

    • Abdominal and
      inguinal hernias
    • Rarely, damage to the brain
    • Rarely, death

    Complications in teens and adults can include weight loss and accidental urination. Rarely, fainting or rib fractures can occur from severe coughing.

  • Treatment

    Treatment may include:

    Pertussis is treated with antibiotics, which keeps the infection from spreading. They are most effective when started in the early stages.

    This may be necessary for those who develop severe infections. Patients are usually isolated to prevent spreading the disease to other people.