What is it

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a contagious infection of the lungs and airways.1 The infection occurs year-round everywhere in the world.1 

Who is at risk

Anyone can catch and spread pertussis.2 Children who have not been vaccinated or are under-vaccinated are at risk of developing pertussis.1 Children under 1 year old are at the most risk.1 In particular, infants under 2 months of age are highly vulnerable as immunization programs begin at 2 months.1

What are the symptoms

Symptoms appear 7 to 10 days after infection with the bacteria but could appear as late as 28 days later.1 Symptoms start out with a mild fever, runny nose, red watery eyes and a cough.1 The cough may worsen into coughing fits that lasts for 2 to 8 weeks and cause difficulty breathing, choking and/or vomiting.1

Symptoms are less severe in older children and adults, and may appear as cold-like symptoms with a constant cough that lasts longer than a week.1

Symptoms for infants include:1

  • Severe cough (some do not cough)
  • Choking after coughing
  • Feeding poorly
  • Having difficulty breathing

How is it spread

Pertussis is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis.1 The bacteria are spread through aerosol transmission from the cough or sneeze of an infected person.1

How is it prevented

The most effective way to prevent Pertusis is by vaccination.

In Israel the vaccine is given as a combined vaccine as part of the childhood immunization program , 4 doses at the 1st year of life, starting at 2 months of age and booster doses at 2nd and 8th grade of school.2

The Ministry of Health in Israel recommends vaccination for pertussis for pregnant women from week 27-36 of the pregnancy, in order to protect the baby against this disease as long as it is not vaccinated and in its first months of life.2

Adults who have never received a dose of combined vaccine against Pertusis, Tetanus and Diphtheria (Tdap) should also get vaccinated against pertussis.3

How is it treated

Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics.1 Keep away from children and infants until you have taken at least five days' worth of antibiotics.1 Medical advice is recommended for the onset of symptoms. For further information regarding whooping cough and immunization, please speak with your healthcare provider.


  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Pertussis (whooping cough).http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/vpd-mev/pertussis-eng.php
  2. Ministry of Health Israel. Vaccination of Infants. https://www.health.gov.il/Subjects/pregnancy/Childbirth/Vaccination_of_infants/Pages/vaccines_babies.aspx
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines and Preventable Diseases. Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Vaccination. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pertussis/index.html.