Course # DL-997: What's Going on with Whooping Cough (Pertussis)?

by James I. Mangels, MA, CLS, MT (ASCP), F(AAM) - Microbiology Consulting Services - Santa Rosa, CA

Approved for 3.0 CE
Level of Difficulty: Intermediate


Whooping cough, or pertussis, is caused by the organism Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis is an acute bacterial infectious disease, and one of the most important diseases of children throughout the world. Pertussis is a highly communicable infection of the respiratory tract spread by coughing or sneezing. The term “whooping cough” refers to the intensive cough followed by an inspiratory “whoop” sound. Bouts of coughing due to B. pertussis can last so long that patients are deprived of oxygen. At the end of a coughing bout, they forcefully draw air back into the lungs producing the characteristic “whoop.” While the whooping stage is not universal, it is the hallmark of the clinical disease and has given the disease its name. People sick with pertussis have severe coughing attacks that can occur for months. The terms “whooping cough” and “pertussis” will be used interchangeably throughout this course.


A. Introduction

B. History of Whooping Cough Infection

C. Transmission of Bordetella pertussis

D. Illness and Clinical Symptoms of Whooping Cough

E. Microbiology of Bordetella pertussis

F. Pathogenic Mechanisms of Bordetella pertussis

G. Laboratory Diagnosis of Whooping Cough

H. Treatment of Whooping Cough

I. Prevention and Control of Bordetella pertussis Infection

J. Conclusions

K. Case Study

L. References


Upon completion of this course, the participant will be able to:

1. outline the history of whooping cough infection;

2. discuss the incidence of B. pertussis infection in the U.S. and in California;

3. list factors involved in the increased incidence of whooping cough in California;

4. explain the pathogenic mechanisms of Bordetella pertussis;

5. outline the clinical features of Bordetella pertussis infection;

6. describe how the laboratory identifies B. pertussis;

7. list methods of preventing and treating whooping cough.

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