Whooping cough also referred to as pertussis is a respiratory infection as a result of bacteria known as Bordetella Pertussis. These bacteria referred to as bordetella lives inside the mouth, nose and throat.

Whooping cough also referred to as Pertussis is an endemic disease in developing and developed countries, with frequent outbreak occurring sporadically at different places around the world.


How is whooping cough (Pertussis) Transmitted?

Whooping cough (Pertussis) is highly contagious and can be spread from one individual to another through contact with respiratory droplet, or through contact with airborne droplet of respiratory secretions.

What are the Symptoms of this Disease?

Whooping cough (Pertussis) is often described in two stages based totally on the sign and symptoms.

1. The Early symptoms (first 1-2 weeks)—mainly ‘cold’ symptoms

Mild cough

Runny nose

Fever (low grade and not seen in all people)

Infants may have “apnea” which is a pause in breathing

2. Later symptoms (between 2-12 weeks) Rapid coughing fits (bursts of repeated uncontrollable cough also called coughing spells or paroxysms) often followed by a loud high pitch “whooping” sound on breathing in.

Vomiting (throwing up usually after a coughing fit).

Tired feeling after coughing fits and poor sleep.

Whooping cough (Pertussis) infection increases a person’s risk of developing pneumonia. A person who is getting better from whooping cough may be more at risk of getting another infection

Rarely, infants can have seizures or irritation of the brain.

People can have low oxygen levels or pass out during coughing spells. Some can get rib fractures (cracked ribs) due to the force of coughing. The cough can last for 6-10 weeks. It has been called the “100-day cough.” How long a person is ill depends on age, other health conditions, and whether antibiotic treatment is given in the early stage of illness. As a person recovers, coughing fits become less frequent and severe.

How is whooping cough (pertussis) diagnosed?

Clinicians typically use several types or kind of laboratory checks to diagnose Bordetella pertussis. Scientists consider culture the gold standard because it is the only 100% specific technique for identification. Other tests that can be use to perform, include polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serology.

How whooping cough (pertussis) can be Treated/Managed

Healthcare providers usually treat pertussis with antibiotics and early treatment could be very important. Which make the infection less serious if you start it early, before coughing fits begin.

Treatment also can help to prevent the spreading of the disease to close contacts (people who have spent a lot of time around the infected person). Treatment after three (3) weeks of illness is unlikely to help.  The bacteria are long gone from your body by then, even though you usually will still have symptoms. This is because the bacteria have already done damage to your body.

Can whooping cough (Pertussis) be prevented?

The best way to prevent whooping cough (pertussis) infection is to get the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine.

Other steps to help reduce risk of pertussis and other respiratory infections include:

Wash hands well with cleaning soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and have others wash their hands before holding or touching your baby.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

 Stay 6 feet from someone who is sneezing or coughing if possible.

 Avoid tobacco smoke exposure which can increase risk of infection

If you have got any cold-like symptoms or cough, you should cover mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow. Throw used tissue in the trash.

Wash your hands frequently and correctly

Refrain from kissing others and stay away as much as possible from babies and people who have other health problems that put them at higher risk of serious infection

Reviewed on 9/4/2020



Tozzi AE, Ravá L, Ciofi ML, et al. Clinical presentation of pertussis in unvaccinated and vaccinated children in the first six years of life External. Pediatrics. 2003;112(5):1069–75.

cdc.gov https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/clinical/diagnostic-testing/diagnosis-confirmation.html.