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Ask the Expert:

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sushma Thappeta, M.D.
Pediatrician
Sees patients at Marshfield Clinic Wausau and Weston Centers.

​Question: Should I be concerned about my child getting whooping cough?​​

Whooping cough, or pertussis, should certainly be a concern for parents of young children as well as adolescents.

We have seen the number of cases increase in recent years in Wisconsin, particularly among teens, and there have been cases reported in the Wausau area.

Whooping cough, so-called because of severe coughing spells that end in a “whooping” sound, is a serious and highly contagious respiratory system illness.

Infants are at highest risk and need careful monitoring because pertussis can result in hospitalization and even death.

Fortunately, we have effective vaccines available and we recommend that children be vaccinated against pertussis at 2, 4, 6 and 15-18 months of age, and again at 4-6 years.

However, this protection wanes over time.

Adolescents should receive a booster shot at 11-12 years, and everyone should get a booster every 10 years thereafter.

Teens are particularly vulnerable because they are frequently in close contact with groups of people.

When an infected person sneezes or coughs, tiny droplets containing the bacteria move through the air, so the disease is easily spread from person to person.

If you suspect a child has contracted pertussis, contact the child’s health care provider and by all means keep the child home from school.


​​​​Marshfield Clinic provides children's health services​ in a number of our centers. Your primary care doctor can refer you to the appropriate specialty and location. ​