Cause: Bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
Illness and treatment: Classic pertussis symptoms include initial cold-like manifestations followed by an extended cough illness lasting for weeks with spasms of severe coughing (paroxysms) ending in a gasp, whoop, or vomiting. Infants may have feeding difficulties, and often become apneic. Treatment is with antibiotics and supportive care.
Sources: Humans, often older adolescents and adults with mild symptoms not recognized as pertussis, are the reservoir and transmit pertussis through respiratory droplets or direct contact.
Additional risks: Complications, which include pneumonia, seizures, encephalopathy, and rarely death, occur most often in very young infants.
Prevention: Universal immunization including booster doses can reduce the risk of infection and generally prevents severe illness. Respiratory and hand hygiene can prevent transmission.
Recent Washington trends: The number of cases reported each year varies considerably, ranging from 184 to 1026 cases a year since 1995. There is also variation in the rate of reported disease among health jurisdictions, reflecting local outbreaks.
Purpose of Reporting and Surveillance
- To prevent illness and death among high-risk persons and among persons who may transmit pertussis to high-risk persons
- To identify and evaluate contacts and recommend appropriate preventive measures, including exclusion, antibiotic prophylaxis and/or immunization
- To educate exposed persons about signs and symptoms of disease, thereby facilitating early diagnosis and treatment and preventing further spread
- To vaccinate exposed, underimmunized children
- To monitor the epidemiology of pertussis in Washington state
Legal Reporting Requirements
- Health care providers: notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours
- Health care facilities: notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours
- Laboratories: Bordetella pertussis notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours - culture, when available (2 business days)
- Local health jurisdictions: notifiable to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Communicable Disease Epidemiology (CDE) within 7 days of case investigation completion or summary information required within 21 days
Pertussis Resources For Public Health and Healthcare Providers