•  Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

    whooping cough  

    PERTUSSIS (WHOOPING COUGH) If your child has had or develops any of the symptoms listed below, please contact your child’s medical provider. Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease. However, even children who have been immunized against pertussis are susceptible to infection. Pertussis is most severe in the first year of life, particularly for pre-term infants.

    School policy excludes children from school until antibiotic treatment has started. In the case of pertussis, 5 days of antibiotic therapy must be completed before the child may return to school. The child should be feeling well and the cough should be manageable prior to return to school. The full course of antibiotics must be completed to prevent relapse. If antibiotics are not given or not completed, the child may be excluded for 21 days from the onset of the cough. A note from the physician may be requested for return to school.

    CAUSATIVE AGENT: A bacterium, Bordetella pertussis.


    Symptoms usually start with a low grade fever, runny nose and a cough that becomes progressively more severe. The severe coughing may persist for up to 10 weeks. The characteristic "whoop" during the coughing occurs in young children and may not be present in older children or adults.


    Usually 7 to 10 days after exposure, but can be up to 21 days.

    COMMUNICABILITY: Most contagious during the catarrhal (cold-like) stage, before the onset of spasmodic coughing. Infectiousness may continue for 3 weeks (21 days) after onset of cough if not treated with antibiotics. 

    METHOD OF TRANSMISSION: Transmission is airborne by coughing, sneezing or exposure to nose and throat secretions.

    PREVENTION: Immunity (protection) from vaccination generally lasts at least 5 years, but may last as long as 10 years. Immunity generally begins to decrease around 5 to 7 years after vaccination. State law requires the Tdap booster prior to Grade 7. A TDap booster vaccine has been approved by the FDA and recommended for people 11-64 years of age.

    For more information contact your health care provider, your School Nurse, the Marin County Health Department.