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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.

  • 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
October 2018

Key Points: 30 cases, 1 outbreak, Average of 5 contacts per case, <1 year olds had highest incidence, 73% cases not up to date/unknown immunizations

The number of pertussis cases reported in October increased from the previous month but remained below the previous 5-year average. In general, more pertussis cases are reported during the summer months.

Image is explained in the paragraph above.

From January 1, 2018 through October 31, 2018, 279 pertussis cases were reported in 33 counties. The number of cases as of October 31 in previous years are marked by the white bars for 2013-2017. 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. Thus far in 2018, it appears case counts will remain consistent with those seen during non-peak years.

In October, 7 (23%) of 30 total pertussis cases were associated with transmission within households and 13 (43%) cases were outbreak 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 shows that 7 cases were associated with transmission within households and 13 cases were associated with outbreaks out of a total of 30 cases in September. In the previous 3 months, 13 cases were associated with transmission within households and 1 cases were associated with outbreaks out of a total of 33 cases.

The 30 pertussis cases in October were reported among the 10 counties outlined in black. During the previous 3 months (July through September), the average county rate has varied throughout the state.

The 30 pertussis cases in October were reported among the 10 counties outlined in black. The counties are: Nassau, St.Johns, Orange, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Collier, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco. This image contains a summary of the total number of pertussis cases reported from 2013 through 2018 to date. 735 cases in 2013; 713 cases in 2014; 341 cases in 2015; 335 cases in 2016; 358 cases in 2017; 279 cases in 2018 to date.

One pertussis outbreak was reported in October. This outbreak was in a school in Pinellas County and to date, consists of 5 reported cases.

Eight pertussis outbreaks have been reported. Outbreak settings include schools (4 outbreaks), daycare (2 outbreaks), work place (1 outbreak), and extended family (1 outbreak).

For more information please read the full summary.

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