Whooping Cough: An Overview

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly infectious airborne bacterial disease caused by Bordetella pertussis (B. pertussis). The disease is characterized by a severe cough that produces a high-pitched “whoop” sound when a person inhales air after coughing. Whooping cough is a serious threat to public health, with an estimated 16 million cases occurring globally each year. In the United States, cases of whooping cough have been on the rise since the 1980s, with more than 15,000 cases reported in 2019 alone (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020).

The primary mode of transmission for whooping cough is through aerosolized droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. B. pertussis is highly contagious, and the incubation period can range from 4-21 days. The disease is most severe in infants, as they lack immunity due to incomplete or absent vaccination. The signs and symptoms of whooping cough vary depending on age and can include runny nose, mild cough, and fever in the early stages. As the disease progresses, the cough becomes more severe with episodes of rapid coughing followed by the characteristic “whoop” sound. In extreme cases, whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, seizures, and even death (CDC, 2020).

Prevention of whooping cough is primarily through vaccination. Vaccines are available for all age groups and are especially important for infants and young children. Vaccination is highly effective at preventing whooping cough, with a single dose providing protection for up to 10 years (CDC, 2020).

In conclusion, whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that can have serious health implications. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the disease, and it is important to ensure that all age groups receive the necessary doses of the vaccine.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Pertussis (whooping cough). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html

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