Childhood Diseases: Pertussis, or Whooping Cough

Pertussis, or Whooping Cough

Pertussis, or whooping cough, was a major cause of illness and death among infants and children in the United States before vaccines were introduced in the 1940s. Following the introduction and widespread use of the combined pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus vaccine (DTP) among infants and children in the late 1940s, the incidence of reported pertussis declined to a historic low of 1,010 cases in 1976.

Whooping cough is a very contagious and dangerous respiratory infection caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium. Symptoms of whooping cough generally include runny nose and a cough that gets worse and worse. Violent coughing spells can end with vomiting. Once the whooping stage begins, antibiotics don't work.

Disease Diction

Whooping cough got its name from the whooping sound children make when they try to breathe after a coughing spell.

Whooping cough is spread through the air, making it particularly infectious.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dangerous Diseases and Epidemics © 2002 by David Perlin, Ph.D., and Ann Cohen. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.