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Is Pertussis Contagious?


Pertussis whooping cough is highly contagious. Whooping cough disease is transmitted from person to person through coughing, sneezing and by coming into direct contact with nasal secretions and mucus from the respiratory tract of a person who is actively contagious.1 Whooping cough disease circulates in all months but, in North America, more cases are diagnosed in the summer and fall.2

The incubation period for B. pertussis after contact with an infected person and before symptoms begin is between 4 and 21 days, but typically in the range of 7 to 10 days. People are most contagious in the early stages when symptoms may be mild and include only a stuffy or runny nose and nagging, dry cough. They can remain contagious for several weeks after the spasmodic coughing fits, with or without whooping, begins.3 Antibiotics are usually prescribed to help prevent transmission to others and lower the risk of complications, such as pneumonia.4

Children and adults, who have gotten one or more doses of pertussis-containing vaccines (DPT, DtaP, Tdap), as well as those who have never been vaccinated at all, can experience a mild or serious case of B. pertussis whooping cough. However, according to the CDC, those who have already had B. pertussis whooping cough once or have had one or more pertussis vaccinations often have a milder case, even though they can still transmit the disease to others. 5

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Pertussis and the Pertussis vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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1 CDC Pertussis Causes and Transmission. Aug. 7, 2017

2 Ibid

3 CDC. Pertussis– Clinical Features  Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

4 CDC. Pertussis - Medical Management Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

5 Ibid

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