What is Pertussis?
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough or 100 day cough, is a highly contagious bacterial disease. Initially symptoms are usually similar to those of the common cold with a runny nose, fever and mild cough. This is then followed by weeks of severe coughing fits. Following a fit of coughing a high-pitched whoop sound or gasp may occur as the person breathes in. The coughing may last for more than a hundred days or ten weeks. Disease may occur in those who have been vaccinated but symptoms are typically milder.
Pertussis is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. It is an airborne disease which spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. --> Those treated with antibiotics are no longer infectious after five days. --> This sample can then be tested by either culture or by polymerase chain reaction.
Prevention is mainly by vaccination with the pertussis vaccine. --> In children less than one year old and among those who are pregnant they are recommended within six weeks of symptom onset. Antibiotics used include erythromycin, azithromycin, or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole. Evidence to support the effectiveness of medications for the cough is poor.
It is estimated that pertussis affects 16 million people worldwide a year. Most cases occur in the developing world and people of all ages may be affected. In 2013 it resulted in 61,000 deaths – down from 138,000 deaths in 1990. Outbreaks of the disease were first described in the 16th century. The bacteria that causes the infection was discovered in 1906. The vaccine became available in the 1940s.