Pertussis (whooping cough) is an acute respiratory infection caused by Bordetella pertussis bacterium. It is highly contagious and commonly affects young children, but teens and adults can and do become infected because vaccinations do wear off. Pertussis can present serious health risks, but it is treatable if diagnosed in early.
Pertussis progresses in three stages that begin with runny nose, sneezing, fever, and cough. This continues into a second stage during which the cough lingers and eventually becomes worse. Spells of coughing are set off by their body’s attempts to remove mucus build up in the respiratory system. After coughing, inhalation is marked by a tell-tale whistling or whooping sound. In the final stage and coughing lessens and breathing becomes easier. However, during this recovery discomfort and fatigue are not uncommon.
Antibiotics are used to treat pertussis; the greatest risk with the disease is the development of secondary bacterial pneumonia. Most deaths related to pertussis occur in infants and very young children.