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Pertussis Cases Whoop to Worst Outbreak in Decades

Pertussis Cases Whoop to Worst Outbreak in Decades

As noted in this week’s public health news from TAG, reported cases of pertussis (whooping cough) have been increasing in a number of countries recently with the outbreak considered the worst in decades in some areas. Canadian provinces have seen cases spiking in the spring and early summer; cases were doubled in England last year from the previous year; and five children have died in Philippines from the illness.

While some speculation is that the focus on Covid led to lower vaccination rates and lower detection rates, a CDC report has shown that pertussis incidence has been gradually increasing in the U.S. since the late 1980s/early 1990s, with large epidemic peaks since the mid-2000s and the largest number reported in 2012 since the mid-50s.

CDC attributes potential factors in the increase as being changes in diagnostic testing, heightened recognition and reporting of pertussis cases, molecular changes in the organism, and waning of vaccine-induced immunity.

While the cases are primarily impacting children, 13 of the 19 laboratory confirmed cases in England between July and September 2022, occurred in individuals aged 15 years or older. As discussed in an NIH  article, protection predictably wanes after the last dose of the vaccine series, with the odds of pertussis increasing by 1.33 times for every year after receipt. Additionally, epidemiological studies confirm that protection is temporary with waning immunity as years pass postvaccination.

Caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, it is a very contagious illness characterized by violent coughing that can lead to a “whooping” sound after an episode. Early symptoms resemble a cold, with low grade fever which can progress to violent coughing fits about a week later and persist for weeks. As with Covid and other respiratory diseases, pertussis is spread through breathing in droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. Thus similar precautions should be taken.

For more information on pertussis, its symptoms, treatments and business preventive practices, download TAG’s Infectious Disease Fact Sheet on Pertussis, or contact TAG for expert recommendations.

COVID Risk Matrix:



Infectious Disease News:

  • Some of the $2.6 billion that remains in the COVID-19 vaccine delivery scheme, COVAX, could be redirected into investment into investigational vaccine candidates for Marburg Virus Disease and Ebola Sudan strain virus, as well as over half a dozen other vaccine programs that were suspended due to the pandemic or delays in product development.  More info about COVAX is here.
  • Ten more measles cases were reported in South Africa, through July 1st, bringing the total to 1100 since week 40 of 2022. To declare the measles outbreak over, the following criteria should be achieved: Absence of newly detected measles cases for more than two incubation periods (42 days). 
  • Whooping cough reports – 
    • Canadian health officials are reporting a recent increase in reported cases of whooping cough in Alberta and Manitoba. Alberta has seen cases spike in the south region this spring. In Manitoba, cases started spiking in late June and it is considered the worst whooping cough outbreak there in 25 years. 
    • In England, pertussis case numbers were double in the 3rd quarter of 2022 when compared to the same quarter of 2021. It’s speculated that that focus on Covid lead to lower vaccination rates and lower detection rates. 
    • Five children have already died from pertussis, which has also infected hundreds of residents in the town of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, in the Philippines, a village chief confirmed on Friday, July 7. 
  • Peru has seen a spike in Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which has triggered a health emergency declared by Peru’s health ministry. As of July 8, there have been 191 reported cases and 4 deaths. Infection from Campylobacter jejuni is the main cause of GBS. The disorder causes the immune system to attack nerves throughout the body.
  • Following reports in May of enterovirus-echovirus 11 (E-11) neonatal sepsis cases in France, five more countries in Europe have reported similar cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a recent update.

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