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August 1991

Pertussis in Adults: What Physicians Need to Know

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City.

Arch Intern Med. 1991;151(8):1510-1512. doi:10.1001/archinte.1991.00400080026004

Although there is increased awareness among physicians regarding their role in protecting adults against vaccine-preventable diseases, many physicians are unaware that adults develop pertussis. Studies of adults with prolonged cough have found that 20% to 25% have serologic evidence of recent pertussis infection. Investigations of outbreaks have documented that adults develop infection with Bordetella pertussis and transmit the organism to susceptible children. Adults are the major reservoir of infection for children who may develop severe illness. Pediatric health care workers and patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus might be at higher risk than the general population. Because most adults are susceptible to pertussis, physicians must consider pertussis in the differential diagnosis of patients with prolonged cough. Physicians who care for adults should be active in the diagnosis and treatment of pertussis, supportive of studies of the epidemiology of pertussis in adults, and interested in the development and testing of new diagnostic and preventive measures.

(Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:1510-1512)