July 17, 2024 Donate

Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Saline, Washtenaw County

Reports of Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Increasing in Washtenaw County 

Community News 

The Washtenaw County Health Department is reporting 21 cases of pertussis so far in 2024, a sharp increase compared to the previous 3 years. Antibiotic treatment is recommended for pertussis cases and household contacts. Diagnosed individuals should stay away from others until they have completed at least 5 days of antibiotics. 

Current cases have been among teens and young adults, and no hospitalizations have been reported. Most cases have been vaccinated against pertussis; however, the protection from vaccination decreases after two years, leaving teens and young adults more susceptible to illness and contributing to outbreaks. 

“Pertussis, unfortunately, seems to be returning,” says Laura Bauman, MPH, epidemiology program manager with Washtenaw County Health Department. “It’s important for us to identify and treat cases as soon as possible because illness from pertussis can be serious, especially for infants.” 

In the decade prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 50-100 cases of pertussis were typically reported each year in Washtenaw County. 

If you think you have been exposed to someone with pertussis or have symptoms consistent with pertussis, contact your health care provider. Antibiotics can treat or prevent infection but are not recommended without diagnosed illness or a known exposure. If you do not have a health care provider, contact the Health Department at 734-544-6700. 

Pertussis or Whooping Cough 

Pertussis is a very contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. The whooping cough name comes from the “whoop” sound an infected person may make when trying to breathe after a hard coughing fit. This traditional whoop does not necessarily occur in infants, vaccinated children, teens, or adults. 

Pertussis is spread through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.  The greatest risk of spread is during the early stage when the symptoms resemble a cold.  

·         Early symptoms include low fever, runny nose, sneezing, and occasional cough 

·         Later symptoms: 

o   In 1-2 weeks, cough becomes more severe 

o   During bouts of coughing, lips and nails may turn blue from lack of air. Vomiting may occur with severe coughing bouts. 

o   In between coughing episodes, people may feel or appear fairly healthy 

o   Coughing may last for a month or longer 

Complications in teens and adults include difficulty sleeping, pneumonia, and rib fractures. For infants, complications include pneumonia, convulsions, and, in rare cases, brain damage. Most deaths from pertussis occur in infants younger than three months. 


There are two kinds of vaccines that help prevent pertussis: DTap and Tdap. The DTap (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccine is recommended for infants and young children starting at 2 months with a total of four doses by 18 months. A booster is given at 4-6 years. 

Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine is given to teens and adults with the first dose recommended at 11-12 years. A booster is recommended every 10 years. Tdap is also recommended during each pregnancy. 

Additional resources 

·         Washtenaw County Health Department: Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Webpage 

·         Washtenaw County Health Department: Pertussis Fact Sheet 

·         Michigan Department of Health and Human Services: Whooping Cough (Pertussis) in Michigan 

·         Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Whooping Cough (Pertussis)