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Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

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Pertussis is a very contagious illness that causes heavy coughing fits which cannot be controlled. These fits make it very hard to breathe, and can cause the person coughing to take very deep breaths after. These breaths often make a "whoop" sound and are the reason why pertussis is sometimes referred to as "whooping cough".

Pertussis is a serious and painful illness for people of all ages, but is potentially deadly for babies under one year old.

The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated.

What causes pertussis?

  • Pertussis is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. It infects the respiratory system.

How does it spread?

  • Pertussis is spread person to person by coughing or sneezing, or spending a lot of time near someone who is sick with pertussis and sharing the same air space. Many people who are infected do not know they have pertussis at first, but are still able to spread the illness.

What are the signs and symptoms of pertussis?

  • Early symptoms:
    • Runny nose
    • Low fever
    • Slight cough
    • Apnea - a pause in breathing (in babies)
  • Later symptoms:
    • Coughing fits, often followed by a "whoop" sound
    • Vomiting after coughing fits
    • Feeling very tired after coughing fits

If you think you may have pertussis you should contact your doctor. Anyone diagnosed with pertussis should stay home from school or work until 5-days of antibiotic treatment has been completed.

What does the "whoop" sound like?

Remember that not all people sick with pertussis will have a whoop.


How do I protect against pertussis?

  • The best way to protect again pertussis is to get vaccinated
  • Keep babies and other people at risk away from infected people
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow
    • Do not cover your cough or sneeze with your hand.
    • Do not sneeze or cough openly into the air.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • If you have pertussis, take antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor

Who can get the vaccine?


  • Babies
    • Receive the vaccine at 2mo, 4mo, 6mo, 15-18mo, 4-6yr
  • Preteens
    • A booster between 11-12yr
  • Pregnant women
    • During the 3rd trimester of every pregnancy
  • Adults
    • 1 dose every 10 years

You should speak to your or your child's healthcare professional about what is best for you.

Where can I get the vaccine?

For More Information


Contact Information 

1000 Martin Road, Amarillo, TX 79107

Phone: 806-378-6300 

Fax: 806-378-6306

24 Hour Emergency Number: 806-680-8980