Pertussis Cases Rising

The following is from the Washtenaw County Health Department...

Bordetella pertussis on Charcoal Agar - detail

Bordetella pertussis on Charcoal Agar - detail (Photo credit: Nathan Reading)

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Outbreak: Vaccination Encouraged

Pertussis or "whooping cough" is still circulating. Every week, 2 or 3 new cases are being reported with a total of 142 cases of pertussis in Washtenaw residents in 2013, the highest number since the 2010 outbreak. To date, there have been six hospitalizations and, fortunately, no deaths. Washtenaw County Public Health is working closely with all individuals diagnosed with pertussis and their contacts to make recommendations for treatment and prevention.

Washtenaw Case Count for 2013

Ages of confirmed and probable cases of pertussis as of 10/1/13:

<1 yr 1 - 4 yrs 5 - 9 yrs 10 - 14 yrs 15 - 19 yrs 20 yr and older total








Graph of Pertussis Cases by Month


Vaccination is recommended for all eligible persons. Parents and caregivers of infants too young to be vaccinated are especially encouraged to have the Tdap or Pertussis-containing vaccine. No vaccine is 100% effective, and some fully-vaccinated persons may become ill. Vaccination and basic prevention of covering the mouth when coughing and washing hands often offer the best protection against illness.

What is pertussis?

Pertussis is a very contagious disease of the respiratory tract caused by bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis is also known as “whooping cough” due to the “whoop” sound made when the infected person tries to breathe after hard coughing and choking spells. Children younger than 6 months of age may not have the strength to have a “whoop.” Also, many adults and teenagers with pertussis do not have a classic “whoop.”

Antibiotics may be recommended if you have been exposed to pertussis. Antibiotics are not recommended without a known exposure or pertussis diagnosis. Please talk with your health care provider or a public health nurse at 734-544-6700 if you need more information.

Pertussis symptoms include:

  • low grade fever
  • runny nose
  • cough which becomes more severe after 1-2 weeks. Cough often lasts for more than a month.

During coughing attacks, the lips and nails may turn blue for lack of air. Vomiting can occur with severe episodes. In between coughing episodes people may feel and appear fairly healthy. Some report that coughing is worse at night. In children less than 1 year old, complications include pneumonia, convulsions, and, in rare cases, brain damage. The majority of deaths from pertussis occur in infants younger than 2 months of age.

Call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Unusual cough lasting 7 days or more (with or without "whoop")
  • Cough that comes in bursts (intermittent)
  • Vomiting after coughing spells

When to vaccinate?

Pertussis vaccination is routinely given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age and then at 1 year and 4 years, so that children have 5 doses of vaccine by the time they enter kindergarten. A booster dose of Tdap is also recommended for teenagers and adults, since immunity wanes over time. In Michigan, parents are allowed to opt out of vaccinating their children.

More information

Washtenaw County - 2010 Pertussis outbreak with over 230 cases

Washtenaw County Public Health - Pertussis Fact Sheet

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Pertussis Information

FAQs about pertussis and vaccination (CDC)

Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) - Whooping Cough (Pertussis) in Michigan

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