Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

A person initially has a common cold with runny nose, sneezing, congestion, mild cough and fever. After 1-2 weeks, severe coughing usually begins which comes as continuous fits of the violent and rapid coughing. A person tends to exhale all the air out from the lungs by coughing and then forcefully inhale with a loud “whooping sound”. Babies  have mild or no cough, but show irregular breathing with pauses (apnea), which can be life threatening. If a baby is suffering from prolonged cough, it is wise to get him/her checked by a doctor for the possibility of whooping cough. Complications like Bronchopneumonia may occur mostly in infants<6 months of age.

Pertussis vaccine

Pertussis vaccination is  the most effective way to prevent Pertussis. It is given in combination with Diptheria toxoid and Tetanus toxoid. The childhood combination vaccine is called DTaP or DTwP. These vaccines have been used worldwide successfully for several decades, to prevent severe Pertussis in infants. Two types of Pertussis vaccines are used: whole-cell (wP) Pertussis vaccines based on heat or reagent killed Bacillus pertussis organisms, and acellular (aP) Pertussis vaccines based on highly purified, selected components of this agent.

The Pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap. Booster Tdap always consists of reduced level of antigens, to decrease the chances of a reaction. Since, local reactions tend to increase with age, highly reactogenic wP-containing vaccines are not recommended for use in adolescents and adults.

Both DTaP and Tdap protect against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (whooping cough).