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Pertussis is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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Emergency Central

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  • Acute respiratory tract infection spread by small respiratory droplets
  • Bacteria (fimbriae) attach to respiratory epithelial cells and proliferate, producing toxins:
    • Ciliary dysfunction, accumulation of cellular debris, increased mucus production, lymphocytic and granulocytic infiltration
  • Bronchiolar congestion, obstruction, and necrosis
  • Obstruction of the airway due to mucus plug, leading to hypoxia and hypoventilation
  • Increased intrathoracic or intracranial pressure
  • Secondary bacterial infection may exacerbate respiratory distress/failure.
  • CNS injury caused by encephalitis, increased intracranial pressure, and/or hypoxia
  • Uncomplicated cases last 6–10 wk; half of the cases last <6 wk.
  • Mortality:
    • Mortality greatest in those <1 yr
    • 1.3% for patients <1 mo
    • 0.3% in children 2–11 mo
    • 90% of deaths are secondary to bacterial pneumonia
  • Epidemiology:
    • Incubation period is 6–20 days, usually 7–10 days.
    • Mostly young children; 24% in children <6 mo
    • Increasing incidence in adolescents
    • Adults are the primary reservoir
    • Peak incidence is late summer/fall
    • Preventable with diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis (Tdap) vaccine


Bordetella pertussis:
  • A fastidious, gram-negative, pleomorphic bacillus

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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Pertussis." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307041/1.3/Pertussis.
Pertussis. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307041/1.3/Pertussis. Accessed June 24, 2019.
Pertussis. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307041/1.3/Pertussis
Pertussis [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 June 24]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307041/1.3/Pertussis.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Pertussis ID - 307041 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307041/1.3/Pertussis PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -