Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

It is cold and flu season, and along with the cold and flu other more serious and contagious diseases may also be found. Please tell your children to “ sleeve their sneeze and cover their cough”. Also reinforce good hand washing techniques.

If your child has been around someone with Pertussis, they may become sick with Pertussis as well. This is especially true when the child has not received all the Pertussis vaccine shots. (DPT/Dtap or Tdap)

Sometimes even if the child’s shots are up to date, they may still be able to get Pertussis.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by cough. Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and a cough, which becomes much worse over 1-2 weeks. Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs, (“coughing fits”) followed by a whooping noise.

However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop. There is generally only a slight fever.

People with Pertussis have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or have difficulty catching breaths. The cough is often worse at night, and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough.

If your child has been in close contact with someone with pertussis, antibiotics may prevent them from becoming ill. If your child is already sick, giving antibiotics early can help your child get well faster and lower the chances of spreading the disease to others.

Please consider the following New York State Department of Health Recommendations:
1) Infants under one year old especially those under six months, are most likely to have severe symptoms if they develop Pertussis. When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Infants with any coughing illness should be seen promptly by their doctor.
2) If your child comes down with cold symptoms that include a cough, talk to your child’s doctor without delay.

Please contact the school nurse with any questions or concerns.
High School 518-661-8211
Elementary School 518-661-8254
If you have other questions or concerns, you may contact your doctor or Fulton County Public Health at 518-736-5720.

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough—or pertussis—is a very serious respiratory (in the
lungs and breathing tubes) infection caused by the pertussis bacteria.
It causes violent coughing you can’t stop. Whooping cough is most
harmful for young babies and can be deadly. The DTaP vaccine protects
against whooping cough.

What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

Whooping cough starts with the following symptoms:

  • Runny or stuffed-up nose
  • Sneezing
  • Mild cough
  • A pause in breathing in infants (apnea)
    After 1 to 2 weeks, coughing, which can be severe, starts.
  • Children and babies can cough very hard, over and over.
  • When children gasp for breath after a coughing fit, they make a
    “whooping” sound. This sound is where the name “whooping
    cough” comes from. Babies may not cough or make this sound.
  • Coughing fits make it hard to breathe, eat, drink, or sleep. Coughing
    fits happen more at night.
  • Babies and young children may turn blue while coughing from lack
    of oxygen and vomit after coughing fits.
  • Coughing fits can last for 10 weeks, and sometimes recur with the
    next respiratory illness.

How serious is whooping cough?

The disease is most dangerous for babies and young children. From
2004 through 2011, there were 159 deaths from whooping cough
reported in the U.S. Almost all the deaths-141 of the 159 were babies
younger than 3 months of age.

About half of babies younger than 1 year who get the disease need
care in the hospital. About 1 out of 4 hospitalized babies and children
with whooping cough will get pneumonia (a serious lung infection).

Whooping cough can also cause seizures (jerking or staring) and brain

How does whooping cough spread?

Whooping cough spreads easily through the air when an infected
person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. A person can spread the disease
while he or she has cold-like symptoms and for at least 2 weeks after
coughing starts.
Many babies and young children get whooping cough from adults
or older brothers or sisters who don’t know they have the disease.
Pregnant women with whooping cough can give it to their newborn
babies. Because whooping cough is so harmful in babies, everyone
around them needs to be vaccinated—to make a circle of protection.

What is the DTaP vaccine?

The DTaP vaccine is a shot that combines the vaccines for whooping
cough (pertussis) and two other serious diseases: diphtheria and
tetanus. The DTaP vaccine protects children by preparing their bodies
to fight the bacteria.

Most children (about 89 children out of 100) who get all doses of the
DTaP vaccine will be protected from whooping cough. But, protection
from the DTaP vaccine decreases over time. Some children who are
vaccinated do get the disease, but it is usually a milder case.

Why should my child get the DTaP vaccine?

Getting your child the DTaP vaccine helps protect him against
whooping cough. It also protects other people who can’t get the
vaccine—especially newborn babies, who can get very sick and die
from whooping cough.

Benefits of the DTaP vaccine

  • Saves lives.
  • Protects children from serious disease.
  • Keeps others safe.
    Side effects of the DTaP vaccine
  • The most common side effects are usually mild and
    occur in about 1 out of 4 children. They include the following:
  • Redness, swelling, and pain from the shot
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • A fever over 105 degrees occurs in about 1 out of 16,000 children.
  • Nonstop crying for 3 hours or more occurs in about 1
    out of 1,000 children.
  • Seizures (jerking or staring) occur in about 1 out of
    14,000 children. The seizures do not cause long-term
  • Serious reaction to the DTaP vaccine occurs in fewer
    than 1 in a million children.

When should my child get the DTaP vaccine?

Children should get five doses of the DTaP vaccine at the following
ages for best protection:

  • One dose each at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months;
  • A fourth dose at 15 through 18 months; and
  • A fifth dose at 4 through 6 years of age.
    It is safe to get the DTaP vaccine at the same time as other vaccines,
    even for babies.

If my child does not get the DTaP vaccine, will he get whooping cough?

Almost everyone who is not immune to whooping cough will get
sick if exposed to it. Before the whooping cough vaccine, about 8,000
people in the U.S. died each year from the disease. Today, because of
the DTaP vaccine, this number has dropped to fewer than 40.

Cases of whooping cough have been increasing over the past several
years and outbreaks of whooping cough can occur. We don’t know
exactly why the number of cases is increasing, but we think it’s a
combination of many different reasons. Doctors and nurses are more
aware of whooping cough and recognize it more often, the ways we test
for the disease have gotten better, protection from vaccines decreases
over time, and more of the bacteria may be circulating.

In 2011, whooping cough made more than 18,000 people sick. Eleven
babies died. Many of these babies were too young to be fully protected
against whooping cough. Several states had outbreaks of whooping
cough in 2012 and provisional data report more than 41,000 cases for
the year.

Is the DTaP vaccine safe?

The DTaP vaccine is very safe, and it is effective at preventing whooping
cough (and two other diseases: diphtheria and tetanus). Vaccines are like
medicines, and any medicine can have side effects. But severe side effects
from the DTaP vaccine are very rare.

How can I learn more about the DTaP vaccine?

To learn more about the DTaP vaccine or other vaccines, talk to your
child’s doctor.

Call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or go to https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html and check out the following resources:

A one-time booster vaccine called Tdap for pre-teens and adults helps people stay protected against the disease.

Pre-teens should get the Tdap vaccine at 11 or 12 years of age. Adults and teens who didn’t get the Tdap vaccine as preteens also should get it. This is very important for families and caregivers of babies.
Pregnant women should get the vaccine during each pregnancy, preferably during their third trimester (at 27 through 36 weeks gestation). If they have never received Tdap and are not vaccinated during pregnancy, then they should get the vaccine right after delivery, before they leave the

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend all children receive the DTaP vaccine according to the recommended schedule.