Pertussis, also know as whooping cough, is a highly communicable bacterial infection that involves the respiratory tract. The organisms that cause pertussis reside in the nose, mouth and throat of those who are already ill and are sprayed into the air by coughing, sneezing or talking. Organisms can also be spread by contact with objects used by an infected person, such as a dirty tissue or sharing a glass or water bottle.
- The illness usually starts with cold like symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing or a mild cough.
- The cough then becomes increasingly severe over one to two weeks.
- There is generally no fever. In the later stage the coughing may become uncontrollable (“whooping” sound) and so severe that the person vomits.
- The incubation period can range between 6 and 21 days.
Treatment of contacts and treatment of those with diagnosed disease are the same. The symptoms of pertussis may be modified if treatment is begun early, during the cold symptom stage. If begun later in the course of illness, treatment will decrease the period of contagion but may not decrease the duration of cough or the severity of illness. If symptomatic patients are already beyond their infectious period, which ends 21 days after the onset of cough, treatment is of no use. Also, if asymptomatic contacts were exposed longer than 21 days earlier, prophylaxis is not needed.
Treatment is 5 to 14 days of antibiotics (depending on antibiotic of choice), along with rest and fluids. Until they have taken the first 5 days of antibiotics, patients are still considered communicable and should stay out of public places to lessen the spread of the disease. Any close contacts (family members, roommates, teammates, those who spend a significant amount of time with the ill person, etc.) should be treated with antibiotics to hopefully prevent them from becoming ill. Asymptomatic contacts should be monitored and advised to return to HUHS immediately if cough or other symptoms develop.
- Drug of choice – E-Mycin 500mg four times a day for 10 - 14 days
- Alternative choice – Bactrim DS twice a day for 14 days
- For those unable to tolerate E-Mycin – Clarithromycin 500 mg twice a day for 7 days
- Azithromycin 500 mg daily for 5 days
Stop the spread of illness to others -- Important preventive measures are centered on simple good hygiene:
- Always cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands frequently
- Dispose of used tissues and other similar objects appropriately
- Do not share glasses, eating utensils, etc.-those on athletic teams should not share water bottles, cups, etc.