Bordetella Pertussis Surveillance

Pertussis (or whooping cough) is a vaccine preventable, contagious respiratory illness cause by the bacterium Bordetella Pertussis, for which, humans are the only known host.  In adults, pertussis is usually a mild illness characterized by two stages: 1) a catarrhal stage that resembles a common cold and 2) a paroxysmal stage involving uncontrollable coughing spells often with a characteristic whoop and frequently followed by vomiting. Pertussis in infants under 6 months is often atypical (e.g., apnea instead of the whoop) and often severe, particularly for premature and unimmunized infants.  Complications of severe disease include seizures, pneumonia, encephalopathy, and death.

Transmission occurs by close contact via aerosolized droplets from patients with disease. Infants typically contract pertussis from older siblings and adults. Patients are most contagious in the first 2 weeks and some patients (e.g., unimmunized and untreated infants) can remain infectious for 6 or more weeks.  Antibiotics can reduce disease severity when started early in the course of the disease and can reduce infectivity thereby limiting spread.


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