Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Child Coughing Pic

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that is caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. During the 20th century pertussis was one of the most common childhood diseases and a major cause of death among children in the United States. After the pertussis vaccine became available in the 1940ís the incidence of this disease decreased more than 80%.

Whooping Cough starts with a cough and a runny nose for one to two weeks. It is followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that end with a whooping sound. Children and young infants, especially, appear very ill and distressed. Vomiting and exhaustion commonly follow the episode. Click here to listen to the sounds of a child with whooping cough.

Adults usually experience a milder course of the disease, but can transmit the disease to children who are too young to be fully vaccinated and also to those who are under-immunized or unimmunized, and adolescents who are old enough for their immunity levels to have waned. Young infants have the greatest risk for developing life-threatening pertussis-associated complications.

The good news is that there are vaccines available for young children, adolescents and adults.

Law (AB 354) Requires Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Immunization for 7th Graders

California law requires all students entering 7th grade to be immunized with a pertussis (whooping cough) booster shot called Tdap.

If you are a Parent:

If you are a Health Care Provider:

Information for Schools:

Where to get a Tdap Booster Shot:

Not available at this time

Additional Information:

For a complete website for parents, providers and schools devoted to the 7th grade Tdap law please visit

Additional information is also available at the California Department of Public Health Immunization Branch website

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Audio/Video

Pertussis-Whooping Cough: A Family's Story (full video)

Help us to Silence the Sounds of Pertussis

Listen to the sounds of a child with whooping cough

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Links

California Department of Public Health Pertussis Website

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Materials

CDC Pertussis Website

For additional immunization information click here