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​Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

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Electron microscope image of the bacteria (bordetella pertussis) responsible for   pertussis (whooping cough)Electron microscope image of the bacteria (Bordetella pertussis) responsible for pertussis (whooping cough).
Credit: Sanofi Pasteur (copyright)

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing that often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age.

The best way to protect against pertussis is immunization.

What's New

Media Availability: Tdap Vaccination During Pregnancy Likely to Protect Newborns from Pertussis—May 3, 2014

FDA Study Helps Provide an Understanding of Rising Rates of Whooping Cough and Response to Vaccination—Nov. 27, 2013

NIH Expands Nationwide Network of Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units—Sept. 26, 2013

All Pertussis News Releases

News From NIAID-Supported Institutions

Last Updated March 13, 2014

Last Reviewed March 13, 2014