What You Need To Know About Pertusis

Introduction

Pertussis is more commonly known as whooping cough or the 100 day cough. It is a highly contagious disease of the respiratory tract.

Causes and Risk Factors

It is caused by a gram negative coccobaccilus bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis. It is transmitted from person to person by aerosolized droplets from cough or sneeze and by direct contact with secretions from the respiratory tract of an infectious person. People with pertussis are most contagious in the catarrhal stage of the disease and during the first 2 weeks after the onset of a cough.

Symptoms

Characterized by intermittent dry cough, coughing spasms, whoop on inspiration, post-tussive vomiting (vomiting after coughing) and mild upper respiratory tract symptoms (mild cough and sneeze usually precede other symptoms) during the first 1-2 weeks and these symptoms are prolonged and may progress into complications such as encephalitis.

Diagnosis

This is by microscopy (culture and smears), direct fluorescent antibody test and serology (more accurate in the third week of illness)

Treatment

Initially, erythromycin is used in the treatment and it promotes the elimination of the organism. Oxygen inhalation, sedation, and other antibiotics are useful afterward.

Prevention

The mainstay of pertussis control is immunization. It is advised that whole cell vaccines be administered at the 6th, 10th and 14th weeks of life. Other vaccines are available as well. Erythromycin prophylaxis (for prevention) may also be useful in un-immunized infants during outbreaks.

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