Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by bacteria. 

Pertussis (whooping cough) is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which results in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than one year of age.

To prevent pertussis:

  • Frequent hand washing, covering your cough and hand sanitizers when hand washing is unavailable;
  • The best way to protect against pertussis (whooping cough) is immunization.
  • Seeing your doctor immediately if you suspect that you or a family member has pertussis;
  • Protecting infants from coughing children and adults;
  • Starting childhood vaccinations on time and staying on schedule using a vaccine called DTaP, which contains diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccines;
  • Boosting immunity to pertussis using a vaccine for adolescents and adults called Tdap, which contains pertussis vaccine as well as tetanus and diphtheria vaccines.

If you or family members are diagnosed with pertussis it is critical that you follow all public health instructions which include:

  • Refraining from contact outside the home for the first 5 days of treatment with antibiotics. Children must not return to school or childcare until after they have completed 5 days of antimicrobial treatment.
  • Persons diagnosed with pertussis and individuals identified as a contact to a pertussis case should take all medication as directed.

The Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit monitors the incidence of confirmed and probable pertussis cases reported to the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department and issues periodic updates of the status of the investigations.