Should the pertussis case definition for public health reporting be refined?

Julie H. Shakib, Lisa Wyman, Per H. Gesteland, Catherine J. Staes, D. W. Bennion, Carrie L. Byington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: The surveillance case definition for confirmed pertussis requires that an individual with a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) result for Bordetella pertussis have 2 weeks or more of cough and at least one of the following: paroxysmal coughing, inspiratory "whoop," or posttussive vomiting. Objectives: Determine (1) proportion of individuals with a positive PCR result who met additional criteria for surveillance confirmed pertussis, (2) whether the likelihood of PCR-positive individuals meeting additional elements of surveillance case definition varied by age or vaccination status, and (3) whether elements of the current case definition influence the likelihood of pertussis confirmation in PCR-positive individuals. Methods: Pertussis PCR results were compared with case investigation data. Results: Eighty-eight percent (165/188) of PCR-positive individuals met requirements for confirmed pertussis. Sixty-one percent (14/23) of PCR-positive individuals who had less than 2 weeks but more than 1 week of cough had at least one other reported sign or symptom. Fourteen (100%) reported paroxysmal coughing, 7 (50%) "whoop," and 7 (50%) posttussive vomiting. Infants who met case definition were more likely to have reported apnea than were older individuals (15/17 vs 45/86, OR = 6.8, 95% CI = 1.4-64.2). Conclusions: Decreasing cough duration from 2 weeks or more to more than 1 week would result in 95 percent of those with positive PCR results meeting confirmation criteria for pertussis. Apnea should be considered an additional sign for pertussis confirmation in infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-484
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Public Health Management and Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Bordetella pertussis
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • Public health practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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