Pertussis is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract and lungs caused by Bordetella pertussis. It produces a cough that is characteristic of the infection. Violent, repeated coughing is punctuated by a rapid gasp (whoop) of inspiration. People with this infection take a rapid breath in, which causes a whooping sound and then go into another bout of coughing. This pattern of coughing and whooping inspirations has led to the nickname 'whooping cough'.
Although pertussis is an uncommon infection, it is very serious, especially in infants and very young children, who may not exhibit the characteristic ‘whoop’ but may stop breathing altogether.
The acellular DTP vaccine protects most recipients against this infection and has few side effects. Fiver shots should be given before entrance into school. A booster shot was approved in 2006 for adolescents and young adults.