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17 May 2017

Causative agent

It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

Clinical features

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 is transmitted by direct contact with droplets from patients.

Incubation period

The incubation period ranges from 4 - 21 days, usually 7 - 10 days.


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.


Maintain good personal hygiene

  • Wash hands frequently with liquid soap and water, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, or after touching public installations such as handrails or door knobs.
  • Cover nose and mouth with tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards. Dispose of soiled tissue paper in a lidded rubbish bin.
  • Put on a surgical mask when having respiratory symptoms. Refrain from work or school and seek medical advice promptly. 

Maintain good environmental hygiene

  • Maintain good indoor ventilation.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect touched surface such as furniture, toys and commonly shared items with 1:99 diluted household bleach (mixing 1 part of 5.25% bleach with 99 parts of water), leave for 15 - 30 minutes, and then rinse with water and keep dry. For metallic surface, disinfect with 70% alcohol.
  • Use absorbent disposable towels to wipe away obvious respiratory secretions, and then disinfect the surface and neighbouring areas with 1:49 diluted household bleach (mixing 1 part of 5.25% bleach with 49 parts of water), leave for 15 - 30 minutes and then rinse with water and keep dry. For metallic surface, disinfect with 70% alcohol.


  • Active immunisation with pertussis vaccine is an effective way to prevent the disease. In the current Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme, a combined diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis and inactivated poliovirus vaccine (DTaP-IPV) is used for preschoolers and Primary One students (Please refer to the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme). It offers good protection and the disease is milder in those who are infected after immunisation.
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