Podcast #262: Pertussis - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast #262: Pertussis

Author: Julian Orenstein, M.D.

Educational Pearls

  • Colorado has a high population of unvaccinated children, and is at increased risk for pertussis outbreaks.
  • The causative organism is Bordetella pertussis. It causes  causes respiratory epithelial necrosis leading to congestion of the bronchioles, leading to cough.
  • The cough is unique – it is usually a series of expiratory coughs followed by one deep inspiration
  • The clinical presentation is divided into 3 phases:
    • Catarrhal: cough and congestion with low-grade fever and coryza.
    • Whooping: characteristic cough.
    • Resolution: recovery with persistent cough.
  • Infants may not get this presentation, but may get apnea and nonspecific cough.  
  • Tongue depressor can be used to elicit cough for diagnosis.

References: Tozzi AE, Pastore Celentano L, Ciofi degli Atti ML, Salmaso S. Diagnosis and management of pertussis. CMAJ?: Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2005;172(4):509-515. doi:10.1503/cmaj.1040766.

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