Pertussis (Whooping Cough) - Tdap Vaccine
The Fairfax County Health Department is currently offering free Tdap vaccine for adults 19 years and older. Vaccine is available at the Health Department's five district offices while supplies last. Walk-in services and appointments are available; contact a district office to check on vaccine availability.
Tdap vaccination is now recommended with each pregnancy between 27 and 36 weeks gestation, even if you received a Tdap vaccine in the past. This allows for the mother to pass along some protection form pertussis to her unborn infant. Learn more.
Pertussis is preventable. The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. Parents and caregivers of infants, people who come into contact with pregnant women, and healthcare workers, are encouraged to get vaccinated.
Why Adults Need a Tdap Booster
- The protection against pertussis from childhood vaccination fades over time. As a result, adults can become infected with pertussis and spread the disease. (Most people aged 19 years and older should receive a one-time Tdap booster.)
- Because infants less than one year of age are too young to be fully immunized, they are at highest risk for pertussis infection and its complications including lung infection, seizures, and even death.
- Vaccination of adults with the Tdap vaccine helps to protect the individual and infants by decreasing the overall transmission of pertussis in the community.
- Up to 83% of infants who become infected with pertussis get it from adults who come into close contact with them, such as an older sibling, parent, grandparent, or caregiver. Vaccinating adults helps to keep infants safe by creating a "cocoon" of protection around them.
What is Pertussis (Whooping Cough)?
- Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
- Pertussis is called whooping cough because of the whooping sound that is made when gasping for air after a fit of coughing. However, not everyone with pertussis will make this sound, particularly older children and adults who have been vaccinated in the past.
Signs and Symptoms
- Because pertussis in its early stages appears to be nothing more than the common cold, it is often not suspected or diagnosed until the more severe symptoms appear.
Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include:
- Runny nose
- Low-grade fever (generally minimal throughout the course of the disease)
- Mild, occasional cough
- Apnea — a pause in breathing (in infants)
- After 1-2 weeks, the cough worsens and individuals may experience severe fits of coughing, sometimes severe enough to cause vomiting.
- Learn more about the signs and symptoms of pertussis from the CDC.
Resources for More Information About Pertussis
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC): Pertussis Whooping Cough)
- Virginia Department of Health: Pertussis Prevention in Virginia