Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory disease. Severe coughing marks it fits followed by a "whooping sound" as the person gasps for air. The disease is especially dangerous to infants under the age of one who often does not develop a cough, rather extended periods of not breathing.
The disease is easily spread through droplets in the air. The incubation period is 7-10 days, at which time a person might begin to experience symptoms similar to the common cold followed by a cough. With pertussis, the cough can become so severe that it results in vomiting, broken ribs, or even loss of consciousness.
Prevention of this disease includes vaccination with the pertussis vaccine. Parents with infants at home are recommended to vaccinate, as it becomes less effective over time.
When diagnosed early enough, antibiotics such as erythromycin may ease symptoms and prevent it from spreading. Most people, however, are diagnosed at a point at which antibiotics are no longer effective.
Infants who are infected with this disease have a high mortality rate and should be hospitalized and monitored. Older children and adults with pertussis have a very good chance of recovery.