Pertussis (or whooping cough) is a bacterial disease caused by the gram negative organism Bordetella pertussis (1,2)
- it is an upper respiratory tract infection with a characteristic, paroxysmal - whooping - cough
- the organism is found in the back of the throat of an infected person (3)
- Bordetella parapertussis can also be responsible in some cases and is not preventable with presently available vaccines (1,2).
Transmission of the disease is from human to human by droplets (1).
- it is a highly contagious disease with close direct contact with an infected person resulting in transmission of the disease (1)
- up to 90% of household contacts develops the disease (2)
- traditionally, droplet transmission has been accepted as occurring within 3 feet of the infected patient but recent studies have suggested that droplets can be dispersed to a distance of 6 feet (1.9 metres) during coughing
The Chinese refer to whooping cough as the 100 day cough; this description gives the parents some idea of what to expect.
A positive history of pertussis vaccination does not preclude the diagnosis - the vaccination only confers 95% protection. Also, maternal antibody does not appear to confer any significant protection from infection.
In England and Wales, Pertussis is a notifiable disease (diagnosis made on clinical ground and laboratory confirmation is not required) (3)
- (1) Heininger U. Pertussis: what the pediatric infectious disease specialist should know. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2012;31(1):78-9.
- (2) Health Protection Agency (HPA) 2012. HPA Guidelines for the Public Health Management of Pertussis
- (3) Health Protection Agency (HPA). Whooping Cough (Pertussis). General Information
Last edited 11/2020 and last reviewed 11/2020