Is Treatment Necessary for Close Contacts?

Treatment for Close Contacts

Close contact is defined as having cared for or lived with a person known to have whooping cough or having a high likelihood of direct contact with respiratory secretions and/or body fluids of a patient known to have whooping cough.
Close contact includes:
  • Kissing or embracing
  • Sharing eating or drinking utensils
  • Close conversation (within three feet)
  • Physical examination
  • Any other direct physical contact between people.


Close contact does not include activities such as walking by a person or briefly sitting across a waiting room or office.

An antibiotic effective against pertussis (such as azithromycin, erythromycin, or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) should be administered to all close contacts of people with whooping cough, regardless of age and vaccination status.
All close contacts younger than seven years of age who have not completed the four-dose primary vaccine series (see DTaP) should complete the series with the minimal intervals. The minimum age for the first dose of the vaccine is six weeks; the minimum intervals from dose 1 to 2 and from dose 2 to 3 are four weeks; and the minimum interval from dose 3 to 4 is six months.
Close contacts who are four to six years of age and who have not yet received the second booster dose (usually the fifth dose of DTaP) should be vaccinated.
Close contacts who are adolescents or adults should probably receive the adult version of the vaccine (Tdap, sold under the brand names Adacel® and Boostrix®) if they have not already had this vaccine before. In such situations, it may be advisable to give the Tdap, even if the individual is not "due" for the vaccine yet.
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