Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Whooping cough is a bacterial upper respiratory infection that leads to episodes of violent coughing. The disease is named for the characteristic sound produced when affected individuals attempt to inhale; the whoop originates from the inflammation and swelling of the laryngeal structures (voice box) that vibrate when there is a rapid inflow of air during inspiration. Whooping cough is highly contagious.
The first outbreaks of whooping cough were described in the 16th century. The bacterium responsible for the infection,
Bordetella pertussis, was not identified until 1906. In the pre-vaccination era (during the 1920s and 30s), there were over 250,000 cases of whooping cough per year in the U.S., with up to 9,000 deaths. In the 1940s, the pertussis vaccine, combined with diphtheria and tetanus toxoids (DTP), was introduced. By 1976, the incidence of whooping cough in the U.S. had decreased by over 99%.
During the 1980s, however, the incidence of whooping cough began to increase and has risen steadily, with epidemics typically occurring every three to five years in the U.S. In the epidemic of 2005, 25,616 cases were reported according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2008, over 13,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the U.S., resulting in 18 deaths. In 2010, which included an epidemic in California (see below), 27,550 cases of pertussis were reported nationwide.
In 2010, a pertussis epidemic was declared in California. This outbreak included 9,143 cases of pertussis (including
10 infant deaths) throughout California. This was the highest number of cases reported in an outbreak since 1947. In the previous epidemic of 2005, California recorded 3,182 cases and eight deaths.
Medical Author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
Whooping cough (also named pertussis) is a term that is used to describe the infectious disease caused by small Gram-negative bacteria named
pertussis. The term "whooping cough" is based on the characteristic noise made
as the person at the end of a coughing attack that sounds like a high-pitched
"whoop" as the person tries to suck in a breath. The disease is transferred from
person to person by bacteria-contaminated droplets formed during a coughing
spell; however, the disease may be prevented by vaccinations.
Symptoms of whooping cough vary. Early in the infection, the symptoms
resemble those of a cold;
mild fever, nasal congestion, sneezing, nasal
discharge, and a dry cough. However, in contrast to a cold, the symptoms persist
and worsen over about one to two weeks. Mucus in the airways thickens, the
coughing becomes worse and may cause the person to
vomit, become extremely
fatigued and during the prolonged coughing spell, the person's face may become
discolored (reddish or bluish) due to coughing effort and the lack of good air
movement. The whooping sound occurs as the person tries to move a volume of air
through partially occluded airways....