Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious 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 can occur at any age.
Pertussis begins as a mild upper respiratory infection. 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 crowing or high-pitched whoop. A thick, clear mucous may be discharged. These episodes may recur for one to two months, and are more frequent at night.
Older people or partially immunized children generally have milder symptoms. Pertussis can be very dangerous for infants, who have the highest risk of pertussis-related complications and deaths. Childhood, Adolescent and Adult immunization is recommended.
Watch this Pertussis video in Spanish (YouTube video)