Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. In 2018, there were more than 151 000 cases of pertussis globally.
Pertussis spreads easily from person to person mainly through droplets produced by coughing or sneezing. The disease is most dangerous in infants, and is a significant cause of disease and death in this age group.
The first symptoms generally appear 7 to 10 days after infection. They include a mild fever, runny nose and cough, which in typical cases gradually develops into a hacking cough followed by whooping (hence the common name of whooping cough). Pneumonia is a relatively common complication, and seizures and brain disease occur rarely.People with pertussis are most contagious up to about 3 weeks after the cough begins, and many children who contract the infection have coughing spells that last 4 to 8 weeks. Antibiotics are used to treat the infection.
The best way to prevent pertussis is through immunization. The three-dose primary series diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) (- containing) vaccines decrease the risk of severe pertussis in infancy. In 2018, 86% of the global target population had received the recommended three doses of DTP-containing vaccine during infancy.
WHO recommends the first dose be administered as early as 6 weeks of age; with subsequent doses given 4-8 weeks apart, at age 10-14 weeks and 14-18 weeks. A booster dose is recommended, preferably during the second year of life. Based on local epidemiology, further booster doses may be warranted later in life.
Vaccination of pregnant women is effective in preventing disease in infants too young to be vaccinated. National programmes may consider vaccination of pregnant women with pertussis-containing vaccine as a strategy additional to routine primary infant pertussis vaccination in countries or settings with high or increasing infant morbidity/mortality from pertussis.