About Pertussis Diseases
Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year. Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths which result in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease.
It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis bacteria are spread through droplets produced during coughing or sneezing. These droplets don’t travel very far through the air and usually only infect persons near by. The first symptoms of pertussis are similar to a cold. After a week or two, the cough worsens and begins to occur in sudden, uncontrollable bursts. Persons with pertussis may seem well between coughing spells.
The coughing spells become less frequent over time, but may continue for several weeks or months until the lungs heal. Persons with pertussis can spread it to others in the first 3 weeks of coughing if not treated with antibiotics. After a person with pertussis has taken antibiotics for 5 days, he or she can no longer spread the disease. Other respiratory pathogens (germs) often cause symptoms similar to pertussis, and pertussis does co-circulate with other pathogens at times. The diagnose for pertussis is Polymerase chain reaction test. PCR tests vary in their ability to correctly show who does not have pertussis.
False outbreaks of pertussis have resulted because of false positive test results with PCR. Pertussis is a common disease in the United States, with peaks in reported disease every 3 to 5 years and frequent outbreaks. The primary goal of pertussis outbreak control efforts is to decrease morbidity and mortality (death) among babies; a secondary goal is to decrease morbidity among people of all ages. While antibiotics may prevent pertussis disease if given before symptoms begin, there are no data showing that widespread use. PEP among contacts of people with pertussis works well to control or limit the size of pertussis outbreaks.