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Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

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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 (poisons), which damage the cilia and cause airways to swell.

Guidelines and recommendations for clinicians for pertussis laboratory testing

  • Symptoms
  • Transmission
  • Prevention

Pertussis symptoms have two stages. The first stage (which lasts 1 to 2 weeks) begins like a cold, with a runny nose, sneezing, mild fever, and cough which slowly gets worse. The second stage is marked by uncontrolled coughing spells and a whooping noise (in young children) when the person inhales. During severe coughing spells, a person may vomit or become blue in the face from lack of air. Between coughing spells, the person often appears to be well. The coughing spells may be so bad that it is hard for babies to eat, drink of breath. This coughing stage may last for 6 weeks or more. Adults, teens, and vaccinated children often have milder symptoms that mimic bronchitis or asthma. Some infants may only have apnea (failure to breath), and may die from this.

The germs that cause pertussis live in the nose, mouth and throat, and are sprayed into the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks. Other people nearby can then inhale the germs. Touching a tissue or sharing a cup used by someone with pertussis can also spread the disease. The first symptoms usually appear about 7 to 10 days after a person is exposed. Infants often get pertussis from older children or adults.

Who gets pertussis?

Pertussis is most common among infants less than a year old, but anyone can get it. Pertussis can be hard to diagnose in very young infants, teens and adults because their symptoms often look like a cold with a nagging cough.

Yes, there is a vaccine to prevent pertussis. It is given along with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines in the same shot (called DTaP or Tdap). Five doses of vaccine, given in a series starting at 2 months of age, are needed to protect a child from pertussis. An adolescent and adult booster vaccine is recommended for persons 11-12 years and older. The vaccine works for most children, but it wears off after a number of years.

Pertussis Surveillance
February 2019

February Key Points: 21 cases, 0 outbreaks, Average of 5 contacts per case, <1 year olds had highest incidence, 52% cases not up to-date or unknown immunizations

The number of pertussis cases reportedin February decreased from the previous month and was below theprevious 5-year average. In general, more pertussis cases are reported during the summer months.

This image contains a summary of pertussis cases reported by month in 2019 as compared to the previous 5-year average. In February 2019, 21 cases of pertussis were reported, which is below the previous 5-year average.

From January 1, 2019 through February 28, 2019, 53 pertussis cases were reported in 25 counties.

Since 2014, the number of pertussis cases reported annually decreased. Pertussis is cyclic in nature with peaks in disease every 3-5 years. Pertussis cases last peaked between 2013 and 2014. Case counts in February 2019 are similar to those seen in February of previous years, as noted by the white bar in the figure.

In February, 1 (12%) of21 total pertussis caseswere associated with transmission within households and no cases wereoutbreak associated. For most pertussis cases, exposure to other known cases is never identified, and they are not able to be linked to outbreaks.

This image contains a bar graph of total cases compared to household associated cases and outbreak associated cases for February 2019 and the previous 3-month average.

The 21 pertussis cases in February were reported among the 13 counties outlined in black. From December 2018 through February 2019 the average county rate has varied throughout the state.

This map shows the previous 3-month average pertussis rates per 100,000 population. Counties with one or more cases reported in February are: Brevard, Broward, Clay, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, Seminole, Volusia Counties with a rate of 0.1 per 100,000 population are: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade, Duval, Escambia, Lake, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, ST. Johns, Seminole  Counties with a rate of 0.2-0.4 per 100,000 population are: Columbia, Hillsborough, Leon, Pasco, Sarasota, Volusia  Counties with a rate of 0.5-0.8 per 100,000 population are: Clay, ManateeThis image contains a summary of the total number of pertussis cases reported from 2013 through 2019. In total for each year there have been: 713 in 2014; 341 in 2015; 335 in 2016; 358 in 2017; 328 in 2018; and 53 in 2019.

No new pertussis outbreaks were reported in February.

So far in 2019, no pertussis outbreaks have been reported.

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