Information for the Public and Providers


Orange County and California have seen a large increase in pertussis cases in 2014. Orange County has had twice as many reports of pertussis so far this year compared to the same time period in 2013.

Pertussis is highly contagious and is spread through the respiratory route. Pertussis illness begins with mild respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold. Coughing then starts followed by development spasms of cough. A classic pertussis cough comes in spasms and is often followed by a “whoop” as the person gasps for air. Coughing can be severe enough to lead to vomiting. Fever is absent or minimal. The cough gradually wanes over weeks to months.

Infants are at Highest Risk for Severe Infection

90% of deaths occur in infants under 6 months of age. The most likely source of infection for infant pertussis is a household member. To protect infants, the Centers for Disease Control recommends:

  • Pregnant women should receive Tdap with every pregnancy during weeks 27-36.
  • Adult and adolescent household members and close contacts of infants should be vaccinated before or during the pregnancy to protect them and the newborn against pertussis.

Vaccination is the Best Protection against Pertussis

Infants can start the childhood whooping cough immunization series with the DTaP vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age. Young children need five doses of DTaP by kindergarten (ages 4-6).

Adolescents should receive a single dose of Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccine at age 11-12 years. One dose of Tdap is also recommended for adolescents up to 18 and adults 19 years of age and older who have not already received Tdap. Expectant mothers should receive Tdap during each pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks. Tdap should also be given to 7-10 year olds who are not fully immunized against pertussis. Tdap can be given no matter when Td was last received.

Pertussis Resources