Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a disease of the respiratory system caused by infection with the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. The most characteristic symptom is a cough that occurs typically in spasms ending in a classic inspiratory whoop.
Some key facts about Pertussis, are shown below, found originally in the WHO's State of the world's vaccines and immunization report.
- WHO's latest estimates put the annual number of cases worldwide as of 2004 at nearly 18 million, with about 254 000 deaths, of which 90% are in developing countries.
- The ï¬rst pertussis vaccine used the killed whole bacterium (whole cell) as the immunestimulating antigen. It appeared in 1914 and became available in combination with diphtheria and tetanus antigens (DTP) in 1948.
- In the mid-1970s, suspicions arose that whole-cell pertussis vaccines could very rarely cause serious complications, such as encephalopathy. Although no scientiï¬c studies have conï¬rmed a link between whole-cell pertussis vaccines and encephalopathy, these suspicions caused enough public concern to fuel a search for a more puriï¬ed, and presumably safer, vaccine.
- In most countries, pertussis vaccination consists of three initial doses of the pertussis containing DTP (the primary series) given at least one month apart to infants between six weeks and six months of age
- Certainly, following widespread vaccination during the 1950s and 1960s, the industrialized world saw a more than 90% drop in pertussis cases and deaths.
- Future priorities for pertussis control include measures to improve disease surveillance and the consequent reliability of case reporting, particularly in the most severely affected (and often poorest) countries.
For more on pertussis, read the WHO's State of the world's vaccines and immunization report
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