The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is urging Hoosiers to take precautions against pertussis, also known as whooping cough, amid an increase in cases across the state.

In the first half of 2017, 136 cases of pertussis have been confirmed in Indiana. During the same period in 2016, the state saw 66 cases. Because pertussis tends to be cyclical, ISDH expects to continue to see an increase in cases this year.


“Pertussis is very contagious and can cause serious complications, especially in young infants,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “I urge Hoosiers to protect themselves and their families by getting vaccinated and following good cough etiquette and handwashing practices.”

Pertussis is a bacterial illness transmitted by nose or throat droplets. Symptoms typically begin seven to 10 days following exposure and may include prolonged cough, bursts of coughing that may cause difficulty catching one’s breath or vomiting following coughing. Older children and adults can have mild cases of pertussis, but infants can experience serious illness. Young infants with pertussis can experience poor feeding, weight loss, slowed or stopped breathing, pneumonia, seizures or death.

While pertussis can be treated with antibiotics, it can be prevented with two safe and effective vaccines: DTaP for children under 7 years old and Tdap for children and adults over 10 years old. Pertussis immunity begins to decrease over time, but adding a pertussis booster dose to the routine vaccination schedule for children 11 to 12 years old can provide further protection.

Women are urged to get one dose of Tdap during each pregnancy to protect young infants before they can be vaccinated. In addition, fathers, grandparents and anyone caring for young children should make sure they are fully immunized against pertussis to prevent spreading this potentially life-threatening illness.

Although pertussis can occur in people who have received all their childhood vaccinations, the symptoms are usually milder in people who have been fully vaccinated.

Anyone with a prolonged cough is encouraged to see a healthcare provider to determine whether testing or treatment for pertussis is appropriate. Hoosiers who are uncertain about their vaccination status can consult their healthcare provider or local health department.

Related: Vaccines: How they work and some common misconceptions