Dealing with Pertussis


Pertussis, commonly known as "Whooping Cough," is an illness caused by bacterium that affects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs). Complications may include ear infections, seizures, lung collapse, pneumonia, hernias and brain damage. Some severe cases can lead to death. Pertussis is an especially serious illness for children under one year of age. Pertussis has become more common in the United States and Colorado in the last decade.


Pertussis is spread by breathing in droplets of an infected person's cough or sneeze. Usually people become infected when they are in close contact (an arm's length away) or live with an infected person.


Symptoms usually appear within 7-10 days, but can appear from 5 - 21 days after exposure to an infected person. The cough may last several months. Symptoms occur in three stages. The first stage may last 1 - 2 weeks.

Symptoms include:

  • mild irritating cough
  • runny nose
  • low-grade fever

Second stage symptoms may last for 1 - 6 weeks.

Symptoms include:

  • severe coughing fits, sometimes with a high-pitched "whoop" sound
  • face may turn blue and vomiting may occur after sever coughing spells
  • the person may be very tired after coughing spells are over

Third stage symptoms may last 2 - 3 weeks.

Symptoms include:

  • less frequent coughing fits and gradual recovery

HOW LONG IS AN INFECTED PERSON CONTAGIOUS (able to spread the disease)?

  • WITHOUT treatment - contagious for up to three weeks
  • WITH treatment - contagious until they have had five days of treatment