​Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

  • Caused by a bacterium called “Bordatella pertussis”

Signs and Symptoms

  • Although pertussis can occur at any age, it is most severe in children and infants under 1 year of age who have not been vaccinated.
  • It takes 6-20 days to develop symptoms of pertussis after coming into contact with an infected person
  • Usually begins with a runny nose and cough.
  • The cough soon becomes more frequent and severe.
  • The coughing spell may end in gagging, vomiting or trouble breathing.
  • Sometimes after a coughing attack, the child may give a loud “whoop” sound when breathing in.


  • Pertussis germs spread through the air or by touch
  • People with Pertussis are contagious from the time they have the first symptoms until 3 weeks after the coughing attacks start (if antibiotics are not taken)


  • Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics
  • These antibiotics are most effective if started within 21 days of starting to cough
  • After 5 days of antibiotics you are no longer contagious
  • The antibiotics will not get rid of the coughing spells; the cough may last for 6-10 weeks or longer
  • Antibiotic prophylaxis of close contacts is only recommended in those defined as a vulnerable person (infant less than 1 year of age or a pregnant woman in her third trimester)


  • There is a vaccine available for Pertussis

Anyone with Pertussis should not return to daycare/school/work until the antibiotic has been taken for 5 days. Remember to finish the full course of antibiotics as ordered by your doctor.

Pertussis is a reportable disease and must be reported to the Local Medical Officer of Health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.