Font Size:

Pertussis Information

What is Pertussis Disease (Whooping Cough)?

  • Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacteria respiratory disease.
  • Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe.
  • After coughing fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which results in a "whooping" sound.
  • Pertussis can affect people of all ages but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old.
  • Pertussis is a highly contagious disease and can affect up to 80% of household contacts.
    Pertussis Graphic

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 5 to 10 days after you are exposed, but may not develop for as long as 3 weeks.
  • First week or two, early symptoms may include:
    --Subtle onset of runny nose.
    --Low-grade fever.
    --Mild, occasional cough.
    --Apnea or stop breathing when asleep.
  • After 1 to 2 weeks, symptoms may include:
    --Fits of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched "whoop" sound.
    --Throwing up during or after coughing fits.
    --Very tired after coughing fits.

How does Pertussis spread?

  • Pertussis is spread from person-to-person.
    --Coughing and sneezing.
    --Spend a lot of time near one another and share breathing space.
    --Some babies get pertussis from older siblings, parents, or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.
  • The best prevention for pertussis is the vaccine, but no vaccine is 100% effective.

Where can I find more information?

  • Ask your doctor or your local county health department.
  • Email the Alabama Department of Public Health, Immunization Division, at [email protected].
  • Go to and type 'pertussis disease' in the SEARCH box.

Who should get the pertussis vaccine?

  • There are 2 vaccines that protect against pertussis. DTaP for children up to 6 years of age and Tdap for people 7 years of age and older.
  • People who have not been vaccinated and are in contact with a baby.
  • Babies beginning at 2 months of age, followed by a total of five doses through age 4-6 years.
  • Adolescents aged 11 through 18 years should receive a single Tdap.
  • Adults aged 19 through 64 years should receive a single Tdap.
  • Pregnant women should receive a Tdap for each pregnancy.
  • Anyone who has not received the full five doses of pertussis vaccine.
  • Either if you are exposed to pertussis and/or have the disease, you should still receive a vaccine containing pertussis.
  • All adults are recommended one dose of Tdap as soon as possible, especially if pregnant or in close contact with infants.

What are the vaccine side effects and risks?

  • Mild (common) problems after the vaccine may include:
    --Pain, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given.
    --Local reactions such as pain, redness, or swelling.
    --Drowsiness, fretfulness.
  • Moderate (uncommon) problems after the vaccine may include:
    --Seizure (jerking or staring).
    --Non-stop crying, for 3 hours or more.
    --High fever, over 105ºF.
  • Severe (very rare) problems after the vaccine may include:
    --Serious allergic reaction.

Where can I find more information?

News Release: Public Health warns of increased pertussis cases in Alabama (08/14/2017).

CDC Resources

Page last updated: May 23, 2024