Acellular vaccine for treating whooping cough in children might not be as long-lasting as had been previously thought. No matter that a lot of vaccines are available against this disease yet the disease appears to be quite prevalent. Pertussis or whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. The coughing can make it hard to breathe. A deep ‘whooping’ sound is often heard when the patient tries to take a breath. It is an upper respiratory infection caused by the Bordetella pertussis or Bordetella parapertussis bacteria. It is a serious disease that can cause permanent disability in infants, and even death. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, tiny droplets containing the bacteria move through the air, and the disease is easily spread from person to person. The infection usually lasts 6 weeks. Whooping cough can affect people of any age.
Initial symptoms, similar to the common cold, usually develop about a week after exposure to the bacteria. Severe episodes of coughing start about 10 to 12 days later. In children, the coughing often ends with a ‘whoop’ noise. The whoop noise is rare in patients under 6 months of age and in adults. Coughing spells may lead to vomiting or a short loss of consciousness. Pertussis should always be considered when vomiting occurs with coughing. In infants, choking spells are common. Other pertussis symptoms include runny nose, slight fever (102 °F or lower) and diarrhea. The initial diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms. However, when the symptoms are not obvious, pertussis may be difficult to diagnose. In very young infants, the symptoms may be caused by pneumonia instead. Infants younger than 18 months need constant supervision because their breathing may temporarily stop during coughing spells. Prevention via vaccination is of primary importance as treatment is of little clinical benefit to the person infected.
An evident increase in pertussis cases among children aged 8 to 12 years is the latest cause of worry. Positive test results among children up to the age of six years are low, and rise as their age approaches pre-adolescence, with a peak at 12 years. Rates of vaccinated children with PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) positive results are pretty much the same when vaccinated and unvaccinated groups are compared in the 8-12 year age group. As such the possibility of earlier or more numerous booster doses of acellular pertussis vaccine either as part of routine immunization or for outbreak control should be entertained.