Font Size

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Facts

Whooping cough is an infectious bacterial illness that affects the respiratory passages. First described in the 1640s, whooping cough is so named because spasms of coughing are punctuated by a characteristic "whoop" sound when the child inhales deeply after a coughing spell.

  • Whooping cough is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases among children younger than 5 years of age in the United States. It is also known as pertussis -- the "P" in the familiar DTaP combination inoculation routinely given to children and the "p" in Tdap given to adolescents and adults.
  • Despite the widespread use of vaccines, whooping cough has made a comeback in recent years. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prior to the introduction of the pertussis vaccine, there were an average of 175,000 cases of whooping cough each year. This dropped off to fewer than 3,000 cases per year in the 1980s. There has been a recent resurgence in the U.S., with a total of 48,277 cases of pertussis reported in 2012, 24,231 cases in 2013, and 32,971 cases in 2014.
  • The World Health Organization estimates there were 195,000 deaths from whooping cough worldwide in 2008 and 139,382 reported deaths in 2011, making this easy-to-prevent disease one of the leading causes of illness and death.
  • The prevalence of whooping cough in infants and children is increasing. Most deaths from pertussis occur among infants under 3 months of age. The incidence rate of pertussis among infants is greater than all other age groups. The second highest rates of whooping cough are seen in children 7 to 10 years of age.
  • A pertussis epidemic arose in June 2014 in California, and as of November 26, 2014, 9,935 cases of pertussis were reported to the California Department of Public Health.
  • States that reported pertussis epidemics in 2012 include Washington (4,783 reported cases), Vermont (632 reported cases), Minnesota (4,433 reported cases), Wisconsin (5,923 reported cases), and Colorado (1,510 cases).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/8/2016

Must Read Articles Related to Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Antibiotics (Side Effects, List, Types)
Antibiotics Antibiotics are prescribed to individuals to cure disease by killing bacteria. There are over 100 antibiotics. The main classes of antibiotics include
learn more >>
Choking Choking is a blockage of the upper learn more >>
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Complete Blood Count (CBC) Complete blood count (CBC) is one of the most common blood tests. The complete blood count test provides valuable information about the quantity of the differen...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Whooping Cough (Pertussis):

Whooping Cough - Describe Your Experience

Tell us about your experience with whooping cough.

Whooping Cough - Symptoms

What were your whooping cough symptoms? If your child was the one who was ill, please describe your child's whooping cough symptoms.

Whooping Cough - Treatment

Tell us about the treatment for your whooping cough. If your child was the one who was ill, please describe your child's whooping cough treatment.

Girl with whooping cough

Whooping Cough and Pertussis

Is Whooping Cough Contagious?

Pertussis Is Highly Contagious

Bordetella pertussis is considered an atypical bacterium that does not enter the bloodstream. It stays in the upper airways and interferes with the body's ability to clear airway secretions by infecting the cells needed for this function. It spreads easily from person to person and can often be mistaken for the common cold in the early phases of infection.

Medical Dictionary