Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Commonly known as whooping cough, pertussis is a bacterial infection spread through airborne droplets.  Pertussis is particularly dangerous for children under 12 months of age.  Parents and caretakers of young children should speak with their health care provider about getting a pertussis booster. The cough associated with pertussis can last for an average of 6-10 weeks.

If you have been diagnosed with pertussis it is important to stay away from indoor group activities (work, school, practice) until you have been on antibiotics for 5 days. The health department will work with schools and children’s groups to identify, test and treat those at risk for complications.

Having pertussis does not protect you from getting it in the future.  Check with your health care provider to see if you need a booster.

Early symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Mild, occasional cough
  • In children less than 12 months of age symptoms can include gagging, gasping and halts in breathing

Later symptoms include:

  • Prolonged coughing episodes which can lead to broken ribs, vomiting, incontinence and sleep disturbances.


Pertussis is a component of the tetanus, diptheria and acellular pertussis vaccine.  No vaccine is 100% effective but people who have been vaccinated against pertussis tend to have less severe symptoms and a shorter disease duration.  It is important for people who will be around infants to protect them by having a pertussis booster which is available through the Gallatin City-County Health Department.

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