It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
It is also known as "whooping cough". The infected person may initially have non-specific symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and mild cough. The cough gradually becomes more severe and spells of violent coughing can interfere with eating, drinking and breathing. The bacteria can cause lung infection, and even lead to seizures and coma in severe cases.
Mode of transmission
It can spread quickly among people and is transmitted by direct contact with droplets from patients.
The incubation period is usually 7 to 10 days, rarely exceeding 14 days.
Patients need to be hospitalized for treatment and isolation. Antibiotic is useful in treating the disease. A child who has persistent fever and cough with distressing gasp during the cough episode should be brought immediately to hospital.
1. Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene.
2. Maintain good indoor ventilation.
3. Keep hands clean and wash hands properly.
4. Wash hands when they are dirtied by respiratory secretions e.g. after sneezing.
5. Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing and dispose of nasal and mouth discharge properly.
6. Cleanse used toys and furniture properly.
7. Active immunization with pertussis vaccine is an effective way to prevent the disease. In the updated Hong Kong Childhood Immunization Programme (effective from February 2007), a combined diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis and inactivated poliovirus vaccine (DTaP-IPV) is used for preschoolers and Primary One students (Please refer to the updated programme of immunization). It offers good protection and the disease is milder in those who are infected after immunization.