Epidemiology

Whooping Cough

July 25, 2012, 2:34 pm
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Bordetella (Haemophilus) pertussis bacteria. Source: CDC.

Pertussis leaves its victims literally gasping for air—young children and babies are affected the hardest. At first, it might seem like a common cold—runny nose, fever, and cough.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Español: Causas y transmisión

Causes

Pertussis, a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough, is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. These bacteria attach to the cilia (tiny, hair-like extensions) that line part of the upper respiratory system. The bacteria release toxins, which damage the cilia and cause inflammation (swelling).

Transmission

caption Broken blood vessels and bruising due to pertussis coughing.
Credit: Thomas Schlenker
Pertussis is a very contagious disease only found in humans and is spread from person to person. People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease (Bisgard, 2004 & Wendelboe, 2007). Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 7–10 days after being exposed, but sometimes not for as long as 6 weeks.

Pertussis vaccines are very effective in protecting you from disease but no vaccine is 100% effective. If pertussis is circulating in the community, there is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this very contagious disease. If you have been vaccinated, the infection is usually less severe. If you or your child develops a cold that includes a severe cough or a cough that lasts for a long time, it may be pertussis. The best way to know is to contact your doctor.

Pertussis Epidemic — U.S., Washington State, 2012

Since mid-2011, a substantial rise in pertussis cases has been reported in the state of Washington. In response to this increase, the Washington State Secretary of Health declared a pertussis epidemic on April 3, 2012. By June 16, the reported number of cases in 2012 had reached 2,520 (37.5 cases per 100,000 residents), a nearly 1,300% increase compared with the same period in 2011 and the highest number of cases reported in any year since 1942. To assess clinical, epidemiologic, and laboratory factors associated with this increase, all pertussis cases reported during January 1–June 16, 2012, were reviewed.

References

  • Bisgard KM, Pascual FB, Ehresmann KR, et al. Infant pertussis: who was the source? Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004;23:985-89.
  • Wendelboe AM, Njamkepo E, Bourillon A, et al. Transmission of Bordetella pertussis to young infants. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2007;26:293-99.
Glossary

Citation

(2012). Whooping Cough. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbf3d17896bb431f6ae2c5