Curiosities about whooping cough

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Philippe Gloaguen
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  • Whooping cough is one highly contagious respiratory infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis which is mainly localized in the lining cells of the respiratory system (bronchi and bronchioles) causing severe inflammation and a narrowing of the airways.
  • The damage to the cells of the respiratory system is due to numerous substances released by the bacterium and in particular by one of these called pertoxic toxin.
  • THEman è the only known reservoir for the bacterium, consequently the transmission of the disease occurs only between humans.
  • After a period of 7-10 days incubation, the course of whooping cough provides 3 phases: catarrhal (symptoms similar to those of a cold), paroxysmal (characterized by a violent cough and the typical inspiratory scream, a deep noisy inhale) e convalescent (progressive reduction of cough and improvement of general conditions).
  • Whooping cough is also known by names of whooping cough and donkey cough  as characterized by the inspiratory scream during the catarrhal phase.
  • Whooping cough is also called the cough of 100 days because it can last more than 10 weeks.
  • Before the use of antibiotics, various remedies were recommended to alleviate coughing fits. These include taking the child to the stables or to the mountains. For a period, a trip by plane or helicopter was also recommended because it was hypothesized a beneficial effect of high altitude. However, all these remedies are completely ineffective.
  • Antibiotic therapy to fight bacterial infection is effective only when administered during the incubation period or at the beginning of the catarrhal phase.
  • Before the introduction of vaccines, about 80% of people were infected with the pertussis bacterium before adolescence.
  • The immunity provided by both vaccination and natural disease is progressively reduced over time, thus making subsequent infections possible. for this it is essential to undergo a vaccination booster.
  • In the healthy adult, usually, new infections present themselves with milder symptoms and courses, not favoring the diagnosis, treatment and isolation of the patient from their relatives, in fact most of the infections of whooping cough in infants with less than 1 year is caused by a family member who is often unaware of having contracted the disease.
  • Newborns and infants in the very first months of life are highly susceptible to whooping cough and face serious dangers, as under two months of age one is too young to be vaccinated against this disease.
  • 80% of the deaths caused by pertussis in the past 10 years have involved infants under 6 months of age.
  • Mothers-to-be should get vaccinated against whooping cough in the third trimester of pregnancy, ideally around the 28th week, not only to immunize themselves, but to transmit a high quantity of antibodies to the unborn child that will protect it from the disease from the first days of life. The pertussis vaccination in pregnancy is free and is among those recommended by the Ministry of Health for pregnant women.
  • Prevention of whooping cough is of paramount importance, at any age. In addition to vaccination during pregnancy, it is important to vaccinate all newborns, starting from the third month of life, and the newborn's family unit (cocooning strategy). In addition, the National Vaccine Prevention Plan (PNPV) 2022-2022 recommends boostering with one dose of dTpa vaccine (trivalent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) every 10 years in adolescents and adults.


Weekly epidemiological record Weekly epidemiological record AUGUST 28, 2022, 90th YEAR / AUGUST 28, 2022, 90th YEAR No. 35, 2022, 90, 433–460

Red Book 2022-2022 American Academy of Pediatrics XXXI edizione

Ministry of Health: Recommended vaccinations for women of childbearing age and pregnancy.Update November 2022

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