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Pertussis is a reportable disease in Oklahoma. Pertussis is a respiratory disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is characterized by spasms of severe coughing (paroxysms). Coughing fits are continuous making it difficult for the person to catch their breath until the end of the fit. These coughing fits are often followed by the characteristic inspiratory whoop and/or coughing so hard that the person vomits.

Illness onset is subtle, with symptoms similar to those of a minor upper respiratory infection. There are three stages of pertussis. The first is called the catarrhal stage, occurring in the first 1 to 2 weeks of illness. Symptoms people have during the catarrhal stage include a runny nose, dry cough and no fever. Frequently lasting for several weeks, the paroxysmal stage (second stage) occurs when symptoms progress to episodes of coughing fits. The disease peaks in severity after 1 or more weeks of coughing fits. The third stage is the convalescent stage where symptoms begin to slowly taper. The convalescent stage often lasts 2 to 6 weeks but in some cases it may last up to 3 months. In adults, adolescents, and vaccinated children, pertussis often can present as a chronic cough. In very young infants, the whoop is often absent and apnea is common.

Bordetella pertussis is spread from one person to another when respiratory droplets are expelled from the nose or throat of an infected person through coughing or sneezing, and then inhaled by another person. It is spread to those who have prolonged close contact with an infected person, such as household members. In most cases, school classmates, co-workers, and people in clinic waiting rooms are not considered at risk. The period of time between exposure and symptom onset range from four to 21 days. Without treatment, an infected person can spread the disease from the time he or she starts coughing up to three weeks after symptom onset. After five days of treatment an appropriate antibiotic, an infected person cannot spread the disease.

Cases of pertussis reported to the Oklahoma State Department of Health are investigated to identify exposed household, close, and direct face-to-face contacts as well as those with direct contact with nasal or throat secretions to recommend a preventive course of antibiotics in order to prevent the development of pertussis in contacts. 

Anyone can get pertussis, but it is more common among infants and young children. In recent years, pertussis has become more common in adolescents and adults who have lost the protection they got from vaccination or illness in childhood. 

Pertussis is a reportable disease in Oklahoma. 

The best way to prevent yourself and your family from pertussis is to get the pertussis vaccine. Two vaccines are available to protect against pertussis. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) and is given to children at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12-15 months of age, and a booster between 4 and 6 years of age. The adult and adolescent vaccine is called Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), and should replace one dose of the Td booster (tetanus-diphtheria) after the childhood series. Talk with your healthcare provider or local health department if you have other questions about the vaccines. 

If you believe you have pertussis, contact your healthcare provider. Antibiotics are used to treat pertussis. Treatment may make your illness less severe if it is started early. Treatment after three weeks of illness is unlikely to help because the bacteria are gone from your body, even though you may still have a cough. Once a person is treated for pertussis, they can no longer spread the bacteria. Other therapies such as fluids, oxygen, and mild sedation may help a child during periods of severe coughing. 

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