Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

What is pertussis?

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a respiratory infection that is caused by a germ (bacteria) found in the throat. 

How is pertussis spread?

Pertussis is very contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing.

What are the symptoms of pertussis?

Pertussis starts like a common cold, with sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Over the next week or two, the cough gets worse and worse, leading to really bad coughing spells that often end with a whoop (which is where the name whooping cough came from).

Hear what a pertussis cough sounds like.

What are the risks of pertussis?

  • Convulsions or seizures occur in 1 out of 30 cases of pertussis
  • Brain damage from encephalopathy (swelling of the brain) occurs in 1 out of 100 cases of pertussis
  • Pertussis causes 1 to 3 deaths each year in Canada, mostly in babies under a year old

How can I prevent getting pertussis?  

The best way to not get pertussis is to get immunized. Pertussis vaccine is combined with other vaccines to give protection against several diseases in one shot. The pertussis vaccine is safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get the disease. When you get immunized you help to protect others as well.

Who should get the pertussis vaccine?

The pertussis vaccine is publicly funded (free) in B.C. for babies and children as part of their routine immunizations at

  • 2, 4, 6, and 18 months
  • The Kindergarten Booster, starting at 4 years of age
  • Grade 9 students 

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends a booster dose for adults. This adult booster dose is not publicly funded (not free) in B.C. Speak to your family doctor or local pharmacist about getting your adult booster shot today.

Get immunized against pertussis by making an appointment with your doctor, pharmacist (for those 5 years and older) or Public Health.

To book an immunization appointment with Public Health:

Residents of Fraser East (Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope), call 604-702-4906

Residents in any other area of Fraser Health, call 604-476-7087 


For more information about pertussis and the pertussis vaccine, go to:

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