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Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
This bacterium is found in the nose, throat and mouth of an infected person, and can be easily spread. Pertussis can occur at any age, but often causes serious problems in babies, and is usually milder in older children and adults. Children who are too young to be fully vaccinated and those that have not received all their vaccinations are at highest risk for severe illness and complications. Complications of pertussis can include pneumonia (infection of the lungs), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), seizures, and other physical and medical outcomes associated with a severe cough.
Pertussis is spread from person-to-person by airborne droplets and close contact with infected respiratory secretions.
Pertussis is spread to others by direct, close contact with secretions from the nose, throat and mouth of an infected person. Droplets from a cough or a sneeze can spread the disease to others. A person with pertussis may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks before to 2 weeks after symptoms begin. Anyone with pertussis should not attend childcare, school, work, or other public places until they have completed 5 days of an appropriate antibiotic treatment.
Symptoms to look for include:
Symptoms occur within 5 to 21 days (usually 7 to 10 days) after someone has been exposed to an infected person.
People who think they may have pertussis should see a doctor or their local health departmentimmediately to be tested. The preferred method of testing is to swab the back of the nose however a blood test can also be used to diagnosis pertussis.
See a doctor for treatment.
Pertussis is treated with an antibiotic, and if treated soon enough, the antibiotic may decrease the contagiousness and severity of the disease.
A person in close contact with someone who has pertussis should be given an antibiotic and/or pertussis vaccination to prevent acquiring and spreading pertussis.
People in close contact may include:
Pertussis disease can be prevented with a pertussis vaccine.
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