Pertussis in older children and adults can be difficult to distinguish from other, more common respiratory illnesses. Generally, coughing is usually more severe and prolonged. Anyone with a cough lasting more than seven days should contact their doctor or health care provider.
Pertussis is treated by taking antibiotics. Because the coughing associated with pertussis is caused by damage the bacteria does to our airways, antibiotics will not stop you from coughing. They will, however, prevent the infection from doing more damage to you and prevent you from spreading the disease to others.
If you know or were notified that you had been exposed to someone with pertussis, and you develop a cough within 21 days of that exposure, you should also contact your health care provider. Early treatment with antibiotics can decrease the severity of your illness and prevent spread.
Pertussis can be prevented by getting vaccinated. While vaccination is not 100% effective in preventing all pertussis cases, it can greatly reduce your chance of getting pertussis. To learn more about the vaccines that can prevent pertussis, click here (non-MHD link).
If you are uncertain if you or your child are up-to-date on the recommended vaccinations, call your doctor. Some or all of you or your child's immunization records may also be found on the Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR).
If your child does not have a health care provider or you cannot afford the costs, the Milwaukee Health Department offers free immunization clinics where you can get vaccinated. For scheduled times and locations, click here.
More Information About Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
Information for Health Care Workers
From Wisconsin DHS
Specimen Collection and Laboratory Information (pdf format):
CDC Guidelines for the Control of Pertussis Outbreaks
2004 Outbreak Statistics (pdf format):
2004 Additional Resources
Fact Sheet (Spanish): Qué es pertussis (tosferina, pdf)?