Pertussis (whooping cough)

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Janice's story

The disease

  • Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a serious infection of the airways caused by pertussis bacteria.
  • The bacteria are easily spread by coughing, sneezing or close face-to-face contact.
  • Pertussis starts like a common cold with symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, mild fever and a mild cough. Over the next two weeks, the cough gets worse, leading to severe, repeated, and forceful coughing spells that often end with a whooping sound before the next breath.
  • The cough of pertussis can last several months and occurs more often at night.
  • The cough can make a person gag or spit out mucus, and make it hard to take a breath.
  • In babies, pertussis can cause periods of apnea in which their breathing is interrupted.
  • Pertussis can cause pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or death. These complications are seen most often in infants.
  • About 1 in 170 infants who get pertussis may die.

The vaccine

The pertussis vaccine is combined with other vaccines so that you or your child can get protection against several diseases with fewer shots. There are several different combination vaccines used to prevent pertussis in infants, children, adolescents and adults.

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is given as a series of 3 doses to infants at 2, 4 and 6 months of age. 

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-Hib) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is given to infants as a booster dose at 18 months of age after completing a three dose primary series of DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib.

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio (Tdap-IPV) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is given as a one dose to children 4-6 years of age. This is a booster dose for children who were immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio at a younger age. The booster dose strengthens or boosts the immune system to give better protection against these diseases.

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine

  • This vaccine is offered to all students in Grade 9. This is a booster dose for children immunized against these diseases at a younger age.
  • The Tdap vaccine can also be given to children 7 years of age and older who have not been fully immunized, and to adults or immigrants who have not been immunized or whose immunization history is unknown.
  • People born in 1989 or later who missed their adolescent dose of Tdap are eligible for one dose of this vaccine.
  • A booster dose of the Tdap vaccine is recommended for adults who were immunized in childhood but is not provided for free in B.C.