Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly infectious bacterial disease involving the respiratory tract. It is caused by a bacterium that is found in the mouth, nose and throat of an infected person. Pertussis is a notifiable disease.

Initially, symptoms resemble those of a common cold, including sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe and is characterized by episodes of numerous rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched whoop. In young infants the typical 'whoop' may never develop and coughing spasms may be followed by periods of apnoea (episodes of cessation of breathing). Young children (particularly infants) are most severely affected by pertussis. Older people and partially immunized children generally have milder symptoms.

The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated.