Research Paper: The symptoms of pertussis
The changing trends in the incidence of pertussis have important implications for the recognition and control of the spread of this disease. Firstly, adolescents and adults may present with atypical symptoms and thus, may remain undiagnosed (Alexander, et al., 2008). Secondly, these infected adults, in particular, the healthcare workers, are a potential source for the spread of infection to the infants and children who are non-immunized, partially immunized and at times even those who have received full immunization against pertussis (Crameri & Heininger, 2008). Thirdly, the increased incidence amongst adults raises concerns regarding the duration of efficacy of the vaccine and has led to the contemplation of the administration of booster doses in adults.
The symptoms of pertussis include recurrent, paroxysmal bouts of a cough ending with an inspiratory “whoop”, often followed by post-tussive vomiting and is associated with respiratory distress. The onset of typical symptoms is usually preceded by a non-specific prodromal coryzal phase which might have symptoms identical to common upper respiratory infections such as a runny nose and sneezing and may be variably accompanied by low-grade fever (Crowcroft & Pebody, 2006).
The catarrhal phase is important because it is during this phase that the illness is unrecognized and thus inadvertent transmission of the disease might occur. The infectious period of pertussis begins with the onset of the catarrhal phase and persists for at least three weeks after the onset of typical symptoms (Crowcroft & Pebody, 2006). Studies have shown that after the acquisition of the organism from an infected individual, the incubation period of pertussis varies between 5-21 days after which catarrhal phase symptoms of the disease begin to manifest (Crowcroft & Pebody, 2006).