Pertussis is passed from person-to-person and is a highly contagious disease. It can be spread easily by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who come in contact with, or breathe in the bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by parents, older siblings, caregivers and other family members who might not even know they have the disease. If you’re pregnant or have an infant or small child it is extremely important to encourage everyone in your family to get vaccinated. Pertussis symptoms usually develop within 5–10 days after being exposed, but can sometimes take up to 3 weeks to appear.
Pertussis usually begins with cold-like symptoms and possibly a mild cough or fever. The severe coughing fits can begin after one to two weeks. These attacks can last for weeks.
Early symptoms that can last for one to two weeks are:
- Runny nose
- Low-grade fever(generally minimal throughout the course of the disease)
- Mild, occasional cough
- Apnea — a pause in breathing (in infants)
If you’ve been exposed to pertussis, immediately contact your healthcare provider who will:
- Review typical signs & symptoms
- Perform a physical examination
- Complete a laboratory test that involves taking a sample of secretions (with a swab or syringe filled with saline) from the back of the throat through the nose
- Perform a blood test.
If you feel you are at risk of being exposed to pertussis, get vaccinated immediately. The pertussis vaccine is available in combination with the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines in two formulations – the Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis Vaccine (DTaP) and the Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis Vaccine (Tdap). Both immunizations are available at your local VaxOn.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests that children should receive five doses of DTaP between the ages of two months and six years. Once this series is administered, the vaccine protection for these three diseases fades after five years. Single doses of Tdap are routinely given at age 11 or 12. People who have not received the vaccine should get it as soon as possible. This is extremely important for health care industry professionals and anyone who might have contact with a baby 12 months old, or younger. Pregnant women should receive the vaccine during each pregnancy to protect their newborn infant. Ask your healthcare provider for more information, and to determine if you should receive this vaccine.