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Pertussis (whooping cough) (vaccine-preventable)


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. ChildhoodAdolescent and Adult immunization is recommended.

Watch this Pertussis video in Spanish (YouTube video)

Disease Reporting

What is required?

Health care providers and clinical laboratories are required by law to report cases and suspect cases of pertussis to local health departments within one working day of identification.

Cases are subject to restriction on school attendance, day-care attendance, and patient care while in the communicable stage of the disease. Worksite, child-care and school restrictions can be removed once the case has completed the first five days of a full course of antibiotics, or after 21 days have passed since cough onset.

See our disease reporting page for information on how to report and for telephone numbers of local health departments. 


Pertussis statistics (pdf) from the 2015 Oregon Communicable Disease Summary

See Also
For parents

For physicians

For public health professionals