Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pertussis 2011 Summary

More than 200 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) were reported to Maine CDC during 2011, far exceeding the number of reported cases in 2010 (53) and the 10-year average of 82 cases per year. 

The number of cases reported per week during 2011 peaked at 21 in the second week of November, but decreased to 5 or fewer cases per week during December. The majority of reported pertussis infections occurred in Penobscot County (67%), but sporadic infections occurred in other parts of the state. Clusters of pertussis occurred in schools, camps, sport teams and workplaces. 

Pertussis is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis and is a highly communicable, vaccine-preventable, respiratory disease that can last for many weeks. Pertussis is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory secretions of infected persons who cough or breathe on someone else. Classic pertussis symptoms include paroxysmal cough, whoop, and posttussive vomiting.  Pertussis can cause serious illness and can even be life-threatening, especially in infants.
Maine CDC has worked extensively with schools and communities to implement control measures and prevent disease transmission. These efforts include numerous health communications to inform medical providers, school officials, child care providers, and the public about pertussis and how to prevent infections. Maine CDC collaborated with school officials in two schools that experienced pertussis outbreaks to rapidly organize and stand up pertussis vaccination clinics. Maine CDC also requested assistance from US CDC to better understand the school outbreaks, determine the effectiveness of pertussis booster vaccinations in preventing disease transmission, and the acceptability of providing pertussis vaccine in school settings during an outbreak.
Medical providers should continue to be on the lookout for pertussis.  Providers should also check the vaccination status of their patients and make sure they are up to date for age on pertussis vaccines.

  • General information on pertussis can be found on the Maine CDC website or the US CDC website
  • For information about pertussis vaccine or vaccine schedules please contact the Maine Immunization program at or by calling 1-800-867-4755.
  • Maine CDC epidemiologists are available to answer any questions about pertussis diagnosis or management through the 24/7 disease reporting line at 1-800-821-5821.

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