Alberta Health Services
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:
In rare cases, pertussis can lead to seizures, brain injury, and death.
Learn more about pertussis.
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.
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.
Symptoms include a mild fever, runny nose, cough, and red, watery eyes. The cough gets worse over time and may last for weeks or months. A coughing fit can cause choking, vomiting, and trouble eating, drinking, and breathing.
Very young babies may not cough, but the infection can cause them to stop breathing.
The coughing can be so intense that a “whooping” sound happens when someone with pertussis tries to catch their breath.
If you think you or your child is sick with pertussis, stay home and call your healthcare provider or Health Link at 811 before seeking medical care. If you or your child is having trouble breathing, call 911 or go to an emergency department.
People with confirmed pertussis should stay home until 5 days of treatment with appropriate antibiotics have been completed.
Find tips to care for your child at home if they have pertussis.
Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics (medicines that fight bateria). If your healthcare provider prescribed antibiotics, use them as directed.
Learn more about how pertussis can be diagnosed and treated.
There are several vaccines that protect against pertussis. It is combined with other vaccines that protect against other diseases:
Getting immunized for pertussis is safe and effective at preventing severe illness. In Alberta, it is free for all children less than 18 years of age, people who are in the third trimester of pregnancy (27 weeks), and adults who have not had a tetanus booster in the past 10 years.
Getting the dTap vaccine protects you and your baby from pertussis while you are pregnant. The protection you get from the vaccine also crosses the placenta to protect your baby during their first few months of life.
The dTap vaccine is safe in pregnancy for both you and your baby.
If you live in the same home as someone who is pregnant, you can also protect the new baby by getting the dTap vaccine or making sure that your recommended vaccines are up-to-date.
Learn more about immunization and pregnancy.
Immunization is the best way to protect against and limit the spread of pertussis, along with regular hand washing and not sharing drinks, food, or cutlery.