Whooping Cough

November 21, 2016

ALERT: Whooping cough is spreading in your community.

Whooping cough – also known as pertussis – is especially serious for babies, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. Here’s what you should know – and what you can do – to help stop the spread of this disease.

The single best way to prevent whooping cough is to make sure that you and your family members are vaccinated. Good health habits, like covering your cough and washing your hands, can also help stop the spread of the bacteria that causes whooping cough.

Whooping cough is spread through the air. The disease is very contagious.

People with whooping cough can spread the disease for 3 weeks after the start of their cough.

People who have whooping cough usually spread the disease to others by:

  • Coughing or sneezing near (within 3 feet) someone else

  • Spending a lot of time close to others in a small confined area (such as a car)

  • Kissing, or sharing drinking glasses, toothbrushes, lip balm, etc.

If you think you have whooping cough, call your health care provider right away.

Treatment with certain antibiotics can help limit the time you are infectious, and prevent you from spreading the disease to others.

Vaccine is the best protection against whooping cough.

The DTaP and Tdap vaccines both protect against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. DTaP is given to infants and young children, while Tdap is for adolescents and adults:

  • Babies and young children – 5 doses of DTap are recommended. They should be given at 2, 4, 6, and 15 to 18 months of age, followed by a booster dose, usually at age 4 or 5.
  • Adolescents and adults – 1 dose of Tdap is recommended for all adolescents and adults.

  • Pregnant women – should have a dose during every pregnancy.

Whooping cough can be deadly for babies.

Even babies who are vaccinated on time are not well protected until they have had at least 3 doses of DTaP. Help protect your baby:

  • Vaccinate. Make sure that everyone in the household, and anyone who cares for your child, has been vaccinated against pertussis. Older siblings and adults with unrecognized milder illness are often sources of infection for infants.

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  • Limit your baby’s exposure to unvaccinated friends and family members, and anyone who is coughing.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home if you are sick. Staying home from work, school, and errands when you are sick will help prevent spreading your illness to others.

  • Cover your cough every time, and teach children to do the same:

    1. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put your used tissue in the wastebasket. Wash your hands very well with soap and water.

    1. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.

    1. Limit your exposure to others, especially young infants, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system.
    2. If you are coughing and enter a health care facility, you may be asked to put on a face mask to protect others.

Practice other good health habits, and teach children to do the same:

  • Clean your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.