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Pertussis (whooping cough)

Learn about pertussis, who is at risk, and how it spreads.

About pertussis

Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is an infection of the airways and lungs caused by bacteria. It used to be called the 100-day cough, as coughing can last for months.

Pertussis can cause:

  • a cough that can last for several weeks to months and sometimes ends with choking or vomiting
  • problems with eating, drinking, and breathing (especially for babies)
  • pneumonia (a type of lung infection)

In rare cases, pertussis can lead to seizures, brain injury, and death.

Learn more about pertussis.

Who is most at risk?

Babies are at the highest risk of getting very sick from pertussis. In Canada, 1 to 4 deaths are related to pertussis each year. These deaths are most often in babies who are too young to be immunized or children who are not fully immunized.

How it spreads

Pertussis spreads easily by coughing, sneezing, or having contact with someone who is infected. You can also get pertussis if you touch your eyes or nose after touching something that someone who is infected also touched, like toys.

The bacteria can live for 2 to 6 days on dry objects like clothes, glass, or paper.



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Current as of: June 30, 2023
Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services
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