In Canada, babies and young children are routinely immunized with selected vaccines when they are 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 18 months. These early vaccines protect against five different diseases, including pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.
Pertussis is a highly contagious infection that affects the respiratory system and spreads easily in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, and talks. Symptoms are initially mild (similar to the common cold) but as the weeks progress, the mild cough may turn into a severe, violent cough, lasting weeks to months. Babies and young children are at the greatest risk of serious complications, such as breathing difficulties, choking spells, vomiting, weight loss, pneumonia, brain damage and in rare cases, death. Older children and adults may experience milder symptoms but nevertheless, can still spread the infection to others. Every year in Canada, whooping cough kills 1 to 3 infants who did not receive or follow the proper vaccination schedule.