Whooping Cough Resurgence: Pertussis Symptoms Everyone Should Know
Physical Health

Whooping Cough Resurgence: Pertussis Symptoms Everyone Should Know


Whooping cough, or pertussis, is making a comeback in the United States. Though we’ve made strides, recent outbreaks show we need to be more aware and take steps to prevent it. This disease affects all age groups, but it’s especially dangerous for infants and young kids.

Back before the 1940s, about 200,000 children in the U.S. would get whooping cough each year, leading to 9,000 deaths per year. Once the vaccine came in, these numbers dropped to less than 3,000 annually by the 1970s. Unfortunately, since the 1980s, cases have been on the rise.

Whooping cough hits hard, like about a third of babies under one end up in the hospital. It can cause pneumonia, seizures, and death, especially in young children. That’s why spotting and preventing this disease is key for everyone.

In this piece, we’ll look at the surge in whooping cough and its symptoms. We’ll also talk about how important vaccination is in stopping pertussis. Knowing about this illness can help us protect our loved ones and our communities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Whooping cough is coming back in the U.S., calling for more awareness and prevention efforts.
  • Before the vaccine was around, around 200,000 U.S. kids got whooping cough every year, leading to 9,000 deaths.
  • A third of babies under one who get whooping cough must go to the hospital.
  • It’s particularly dangerous for infants and young children.
  • Vaccines are crucial in preventing and reducing whooping cough.

The Alarming Comeback of Whooping Cough

Whooping cough, or pertussis, was a big problem in the U.S many years ago. When the vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, its cases dropped significantly. Yet, recently, its numbers have been rising again.

The History of Whooping Cough and Vaccine Impact

Outbreaks of whooping cough used to happen every three to four years. They caused a lot of sickness. The latest big outbreak in Australia was in 2015, with over 22,000 cases. Even with the vaccine, cases are creeping back up.

Now, we have better tests for whooping cough. This helps us understand how much it’s still around. But, the bacteria is spreading more, and vaccine protection might not last forever. These help whooping cough stay a threat.

Recent Outbreaks and Rising Incidence Rates

By November 14 this year, there have been over 1,300 cases in the U.S. Whooping cough spreads easier than the flu, measles, or COVID-19. Over half the recent cases were in adults, showing we all need to be careful.

About 200,000 Americans get whooping cough every year, and it takes about 20 babies’ lives annually. The most cases were seen in 2012, with over 50,000 people sick. Included in that number are 2,709 babies younger than one year old.

A 2019 study found that the vaccines alone aren’t to blame for whooping cough’s continued presence. Other things like how often people are vaccinated and the slow decrease in vaccine protection also matter.

Vaccines are the best way to fight whooping cough. Infants should get four DTaP doses before they turn 18 months. And we should get booster shots at 4-6 years old, then again from 11-18 years old.

It’s important for many groups to get the whooping cough vaccine. This includes young children, pregnant women, older adults, and those who work in healthcare. By doing this, we can all help protect each other.

The CDC says good hygiene is crucial to stop whooping cough from spreading. Always throw away used tissues, wash your hands often, and cover your mouth when you cough.

Understanding Whooping Cough and Its Transmission

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a disease of the lungs. It’s caused by Bordetella pertussis bacteria. It mainly spreads when an infected person coughs. This releases tiny droplets that others can breathe in. Knowing how this disease moves helps us stop it from spreading.

Kids and babies are more likely to get and pass on whooping cough. But, it can affect people of any age. Being close to someone who has it, like living together, can spread the disease.

Pertussis spreads differently depending on age. Here are some key points:

  1. Infants: Babies under one year old are at high risk. About one third with the disease need hospital care. While rates in babies are high, they have been going up.
  2. Children: Kids should get five doses of the DTaP vaccine by age six. This guards against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. If vaccinated kids get whooping cough, it’s usually not as bad.
  3. Adolescents and adults: Preteens need one Tdap shot. This boosts their pertussis protection. Adults who never got a Tdap should get one. It makes whooping cough less severe if they catch it.

Pertussis is making a comeback, says a 2013 study by Kline and others. Cherry JD’s 2016 work noted the disease’s effect on global infants. In 2019, Barkoff showed how some vaccines might not work as well. Dienstbier’s 2021 research looked at diagnosing pertussis over time.

Statistic Information
Prevaccine era Over 200,000 pertussis cases were reported annually in the United States.
Decrease in incidence Compared to the 1940s, pertussis cases have dropped by 75%.
Global burden In 2014, over 24 million new pertussis cases occurred, leading to 160,700 deaths.
Infant mortality From 2000 to 2017, 307 deaths happened, mostly in babies under two months. Pneumonia commonly followed, affecting 18.6% of those under six months.
Complications in adolescents and adults Pertussis can be serious, causing problems like trouble sleeping and pneumonia. Neurologic issues are more common in babies, including seizures and encephalopathy.

Diagnosing pertussis needs different tests, like PCR. Culture is the best but can be slow. Loeffelholz’s 2012 work explains these testing differences.

Whooping Cough Resurgence: Pertussis Symptoms Everyone Should Know

Initial Cold-Like Symptoms Leading to Severe Coughing Spells

Spotting whooping cough’s early signs is crucial. It helps catch it sooner for the right treatment. At first, it can look like a cold with a runny nose and minor cough. But soon, it turns into severe coughing fits, sometimes with a whooping sound.

It usually begins mildly, feeling like a cold, and lasts about one to two weeks. Then, the coughing gets more severe and can continue for months. Coughs may be quick and strong, with an intense breath in that creates the ‘whoop.’

This ‘whooping’ sound is unique, but not everyone with whooping cough makes this noise. The cough’s strength and how often it happens can be different from person to person.

Getting the diagnosis right is vital, especially for babies and people with weak health. Mistakes can lead to more sickness and the disease spreading faster. Knowing the symptoms well and acting fast are key for both doctors and patients.

The Dangers of Misdiagnosing Pertussis

Identifying pertussis early is tough because it looks like other illnesses. This can delay treatment, making complications more likely.

Babies are at high risk. The CDC says many babies with whooping cough end up in the hospital. Not catching it early in infants can lead to big health problems.

Without a correct diagnosis, the disease can easily reach those most at risk. This includes unvaccinated babies and people with weak immune systems. It only makes the illness spread more, increasing the danger.

Tackling pertussis risks right means staying sharp as a healthcare worker. Suspect the illness in people with coughs. Quick and proper tests can make sure the right care is given, lessening its harm.

pertussis symptoms

Key Statistics Impact of Pertussis
Between 1940-1945, over a million cases of pertussis were diagnosed in the United States each year, which decreased to less than 3,000 cases annually by the 1970s after the introduction of the pertussis vaccine. Before pertussis vaccines became widely available in the 1940s, as many as 200,000 children in the US got sick with whooping cough each year, and about 9,000 died due to the infection.
About one third of babies younger than one year old who contract whooping cough end up in the hospital according to the CDC. Nearly half of infants under 1 year old who are infected with whooping cough must be hospitalized due to the severity of the infection.
The CDC estimates approximately 24.1 million cases of whooping cough and around 160,700 deaths occur in children under the age of 5 years globally annually. Children and teens aged 11 to 18 who haven’t received a booster shot of the vaccine are at risk of contracting whooping cough.

Recognizing the Distinctive Whooping Cough Sounds

“Whooping” is the sound at the end of a coughing bout in whooping cough. It happens when a person quickly breathes in after coughing hard. This sound is unique to whooping cough, helping doctors tell it apart from other sicknesses.

whooping cough sounds

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a nasty lung infection. It’s caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. This cough makes individuals cough a lot and sometimes make a whooping noise when they breathe in quickly afterwards.

Not everyone with whooping cough makes the whooping sound. For example, vaccinated people or those with very mild cases might not. But, knowing about this sound helps doctors pinpoint the issue faster.

The whooping sound usually comes from babies, kids, and sometimes adultswith this sickness. It’s much more common in those under 5 years old. They tend to get really sick from this.

Just hearing the whooping sound isn’t enough to say it’s whooping cough. You should also look for a long cough, severe coughing, and sometimes throwing up after coughing. All these signs together help make a confident diagnosis.

If you think you or someone you know might have whooping cough, see a doctor. Getting tested early and starting treatment is important. It can stop the sickness from spreading and protect those who are more at risk.

The Vital Role of Vaccination in Pertussis Prevention

Vaccination is key in stopping pertussis and cutting its spread. It helps you and those near you against this contagious infection.

DTaP and Tdap Vaccines: Protection Across Ages

Two vaccines guard against pertussis: DTaP and Tdap.

DTaP is for young kids. It protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. The first of five doses should start when the child is two months old.

Tdap is for teens and adults. It guards against the same diseases. Kids aged 11 to 12 should get it once. Adults who missed it should get a dose, with boosters every 10 years.

Vaccination Recommendations for Pregnant Women and Caregivers

Pregnant women and those caring for kids have special advice.

They should get the Tdap shot between the 27th and 36th week of pregnancy. This helps protect newborns. It makes the baby less likely to get whooping cough by 80% in their first two months.

Caregivers need to be current on their shots too. Staying vaccinated stops them from spreading pertussis to babies.

Key Facts Statistics
Before the availability of pertussis vaccine in the 1940s, more than 200,000 cases of pertussis were reported annually in the United States. Incidence of pertussis has decreased by more than 75% compared to the prevaccine era with widespread use of the vaccine.
Between 2000 and 2017, 307 deaths from pertussis were reported to the CDC, with 84% of these deaths involving children younger than 2 months. Adolescents and adults may experience complications from pertussis, such as difficulty sleeping, urinary incontinence, pneumonia, rib fractures, syncope, and weight loss.
Pregnant individuals who receive a Tdap vaccine during the 27th through 36th week of each pregnancy can lower the risk of whooping cough in their babies under two months old by almost 80%. Vaccinated individuals who contract whooping cough tend to have milder symptoms compared to unvaccinated individuals, with shorter-lasting cough and less severe coughing fits.

Navigating Whooping Cough Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing whooping cough can be hard since it looks like other illnesses, especially at first. Yet, getting the right diagnosis early is key. It helps with treatment and stopping the disease from spreading.

Doctors use many steps to diagnose whooping cough. They start by looking at the person’s medical past, asking about recent contact with sick people. Then, a check-up might show signs like a bad cough and a “whooping” noise when breathing.

Along with these steps, lab tests like PCR and serology can confirm whooping cough. They look for the Bordetella pertussis bacteria in the person’s spit or blood.

Doctors also look at how the person’s symptoms line up with whooping cough. And whether they’ve had the whooping cough vaccine. It’s good to know that even vaccinated people can get whooping cough, but they often have milder symptoms.


Early antibiotic use is common for treating whooping cough. Drugs like azithromycin can make symptoms less severe, cut the time a person is contagious, and stop the disease from spreading.

When it comes to antibiotics, starting them within the first three weeks is key. After three weeks, they might not work as well.

Supportive care is also a big part of treating whooping cough. It involves getting lots of rest, drinking plenty of fluids; using a humidifier can ease coughs. And it’s best to avoid things like smoke that can make coughing worse.

Plus, cough syrups should be avoided. They can actually stop the body from clearing the airways, making things worse.

“Diagnosing and treating whooping cough requires a comprehensive approach. Timely diagnosis and appropriate use of antibiotics play a crucial role in reducing the severity of symptoms and preventing further transmission.”

Pertussis Complications and Hospitalization Risks

Complications in Babies and Young Children

Whooping cough is serious for babies and young kids. The CDC says about one third of babies ill with it are hospitalized. This can be life-threatening and result in:

  • Pneumonia: Whooping cough can cause a severe lung infection that makes breathing hard for them.
  • Seizures: Coughing a lot may lead to seizures, which is very risky for health.
  • Slowed or Stopped Breathing: It can make them breathe too slowly or even stop, which can damage the brain.
  • Death: In some severe cases, it can be deadly, especially in babies.

Timely action is vital to avoid these health dangers and lower the hospital stay chance.

Preventing Serious Health Issues With Timely Intervention

Spotting whooping cough early and getting treated fast helps a lot. Vaccination is key in defense. It cuts the risk in babies under two months by nearly 80%. Children under six need five DTaP doses. Preteens must get one Tdap shot between 11 and 12 years old.

Focusing on early check-ups, proper care, and vaccination can stop serious sickness. This protects babies and young kids.

Targeted Whooping Cough Awareness and Education

To fight whooping cough’s return and protect those at risk, we must spread awareness. Parents and caregivers are key, needing to know the symptoms and how to prevent it. This way, they also help stop whooping cough from spreading.

Raising Awareness Among Parents and Caregivers

Parents and caregivers need to understand whooping cough’s dangers to babies and young kids. They should look out for symptoms like severe coughing, a “whooping” noise when breathing in, and know how important early treatment is. Keeping children’s vaccinations, especially the DTaP vaccine, up to date is also critical.

Efforts like awareness campaigns, educational materials, and talks with doctors are vital. They help parents by giving correct information, easing worries, and showing the value of vaccines. These actions encourage informed choices and proactive steps against whooping cough.

Importance of Community-Wide Prevention Efforts

Community efforts are crucial to stop whooping cough’s spread. Everyone, not just parents, should be educated on the importance of vaccines. This includes initiatives like vaccination drives and clear health messages.

Groups like schools and health care workers, along with local leaders, must come together. Together, they can share the message about vaccines, clean habits, and staying home if you’re sick. This teamwork protects everyone from whooping cough.

Strengthening Community Immunity Against Pertussis

It’s essential to boost community immunity against pertussis. This helps lower the number of people who get the disease. We can do this by improving how many people get vaccinated, spreading the word about pertussis, and by teams working together. These teams include doctors, schools, and groups in our neighborhoods.

Vaccination is very effective in stopping pertussis. In the UK, babies get the pertussis shot when they are two, three, and four months old. They also get a booster when they are around four years old. With over 90% of people getting vaccinated, the UK has a strong wall of immunity against pertussis.

It’s key for health workers, schools, and groups in the community to join forces. Together, they share important facts about vaccination and staying healthy. They also tell people to stay home when they are sick. This teamwork boosts knowledge and access to help to stop pertussis.

Tailored campaigns are crucial too. They can teach everyone about the importance of vaccination and spotting pertussis signs. They also teach when to see a doctor. By improving community knowledge, these campaigns help prevent the disease from spreading.

Strengthening the community’s defense against pertussis is a big task. It means making sure more people get vaccinated, running smart campaigns, and working together across different sectors. With all these steps, we can make our communities safer from pertussis. This is how we protect everyone’s health.


The return of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, means we must be more careful and take steps to prevent it. Before the 1940s, the U.S. saw over 200,000 cases of pertussis yearly. With the vaccine, this number dropped by more than 75%.

In 2014, a study found over 24 million new cases of pertussis in kids under 5 worldwide. It caused around 160,700 deaths. Between 2000 and 2017, pneumonia hit around 13.2% of those with pertussis and 18.6% of babies under 6 months. During that time, 307 deaths were recorded, mostly in babies under 2 months.

Babies with pertussis face risks like seizures and encephalopathy. Teens and adults can also suffer, from trouble sleeping to weight loss. These issues show why knowing the signs, how it spreads, and vaccinating everyone is so important.

To fight whooping cough, everyone must do their part. It’s important to talk about the disease and how to stop it. With everyone getting vaccinated, we can make our communities safer. This approach is our best bet to lower the rates of pertussis.


What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough is a contagious infection caused by a certain bacteria. Many know it as pertussis.

What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

Early signs may seem like a cold with a runny nose and sneezing. A mild cough might also be present. But, it soon gets worse, causing severe coughing spells. These can make a sound like a “whoop” as air is breathed in.

How is whooping cough spread?

The disease spreads mainly when someone with whooping cough coughs or sneezes. Tiny droplets in the air contain the bacteria.

Who is at risk of contracting whooping cough?

Anyone can get whooping cough, but it’s most dangerous for babies under three months old.

How can whooping cough be prevented?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent whooping cough. There are two types of vaccines available. One is for young kids, and the other is for older kids and adults. Pregnant women and those close to babies should also get vaccinated.

How is whooping cough diagnosed?

Diagnosing it is tricky since it looks like other illnesses. Doctors need to take a detailed history, check your body, and do tests to be sure.

What is the treatment for whooping cough?

Doctors treat it with antibiotics. This helps make the illness less severe and lowers the chance of passing it to others.

What are the complications of whooping cough?

Whooping cough can cause serious issues in babies and young children. This includes pneumonia and, rarely, even death.

How can I raise awareness about whooping cough?

Help people understand the symptoms and the need for vaccination. Also, share the importance of good hygiene and staying home when sick.

How can communities strengthen immunity against whooping cough?

By increasing vaccination rates and spreading the word, communities can help protect themselves. This means working closely with doctors, schools, and groups in the area.

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