Be Aware of Pertussis (whooping cough)
Monday, January 28, 2013 6:25 AM


A case of pertussis (also called whooping cough) has been reported at Lake Harriet Upper and now is a good time to learn more about pertussis.


Pertussis may begin with a runny nose, sneezing, mild cough, and possibly a low grade fever. After 1 or 2 weeks, the cough worsens and begins to occur in sudden, uncontrollable bursts. These coughing attacks can end in vomiting and/or in a high-pitched whooping noise. Coughing attacks often happen at night and the cough may last up to three months.


Persons with pertussis should not go to school, work, or any activities until they have finished 5 days of antibiotic treatment, unless the person has already been coughing for 3 or more weeks. Although the cough can last longer than 3 weeks, a person is no longer contagious after the third week.


In recent years, more cases of pertussis have been reported in adults, adolescents and school-age children. Since pertussis may be milder in adults and older children, they can pass on the disease without knowing to infants and preschoolers who are at risk for the illness. 


Most children have been vaccinated for pertussis, however, protection decreases over time. Studies have shown that the immunity from the vaccine decreases after 3-5 years from the last vaccination, which is usually given before kindergarten. Therefore, most adolescents and adults are at risk for pertussis.


A pertussis booster vaccine (Tdap) for adolescents and adults is now available and is given with the tetanus-diphtheria booster. Parents of children 10 years and older and adults (especially those with infants less than 12 months of age in their home) should talk to their healthcare provider about Tdap. 


If you or your child has a cough and has had contact with someone with pertussis or has been coughing for 7 days or longer, discuss pertussis with your healthcare provider. Questions from you or your healthcare provider can be directed Hennepin County Public Health at 612-543-5230.