Evaluating the role of cough duration in the pertussis case definition among Michigan cases, 2000–2010

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Impressive reductions in pertussis have been achieved in the U.S. during the 20th century through childhood vaccination. Over the past two decades, increasing pertussis incidence has highlighted the need for accurate and timely reporting of cases to improve prevention and control efforts. We assessed components of the pertussis case definition, comparing use of clinical characteristics and laboratory results and their effects on internal validity, including an examination of the 2014 infant case definition. All reported pertussis cases in Michigan during 2000–2010 with data on cough length (N = 3310) were analyzed using multivariate statistics to internally validate reported cases, and calculate odds of meeting the clinical case definition, including a cough of at least 14 days. Cough duration of reported cases averaged 32 days and was longer with greater time interval between cough onset and initial presentation to a physician. Only about half of reported cases had positive laboratory results. Among cases seeking medical evaluation prior to meeting the cough duration required to fulfill the clinical case definition, the presence of positive lab results doubled the odds that the cough duration was not met compared to cases without a positive lab test. Clinical characteristics of pertussis are frequently ignored in applying the case classification. Relying solely on laboratory confirmation and disregarding clinical characteristics results in undiagnosed pertussis cases among those who are vaccinated, among adults, and among anyone who delays seeking care. This may prevent use of appropriate prevention and prophylaxis in contacts.




Knapp, J. K., Wilson, M. L., Murray, S., & Boulton, M. L. (2019). Evaluating the role of cough duration in the pertussis case definition among Michigan cases, 2000–2010. Preventive Medicine Reports, 16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.100973

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