Pertussis in Adolescents

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Pertussis is a highly communicable respiratory infection caused by Bordetella pertussis. In spite of the widespread availability of effective vaccines and high levels of vaccination coverage, a significant resurgence in pertussis has been observed during the past 2 decades. The increase in reported cases is due in large part to infection in adolescents and adults, and waning immunity plays an important role. Pertussis in adolescents and adults often goes unrecognized because a persistent, uncharacteristic cough might be the only clinical presentation. Pneumonia is the most frequent complication. Culture and polymerase chain reaction are helpful in establishing the diagnosis if a specimen can be obtained early in the course of the illness. Serology is useful when the diagnosis is not suspected until a later stage. Treatment with a macrolide antibiotic is recommended for affected individuals, as well as for all household and other close contacts. Universal immunization is necessary for disease control. Immunization should begin in infancy and should continue with booster doses through adulthood. Two adolescent and adult formulations of acellular pertussis vaccine are licensed in North America and Europe. Both are combined with an adult formulation of diphtheria and tetanus toxoids. In the US, Adacel® (Sanofi Pasteur, Toronto, Ontario, Canada) is licensed for use in individuals aged 11 to 64 y while Boostrix® (GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Rixensart, Belgium) is licensed for use in individuals aged 10 to 18 y. These vaccines are safe, immunogenic, and well tolerated. Routine vaccination of adolescents and adults is required for optimal control of pertussis.

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