Bordetella pertussis infections in travelers: data from the GeoSentinel global network

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Background: Pertussis is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable respiratory infection that is endemic worldwide. There are limited data regarding the occurrence of pertussis in travelers. The objective of this study is to identify travel-related pertussis cases reported to the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network.

Methods: This is a descriptive, retrospective analysis of GeoSentinel records from 25 travel/tropical medicine clinics in 16 countries. Frequencies of demographic and travel-related characteristics and symptoms of 74 cases of pertussis in travelers and new immigrants from 1999 to 2015 were analysed.

Results: There were 74 probable and confirmed cases of pertussis in the GeoSentinel database; median age was 44 years, and 38 (51%) patients were female. Tourism was the most common reason for travel (41; 55%). Country of exposure was determined in 66 cases with travelers returning from India and China constituting the highest number of cases (10 cases each; 15% each). Seventy of 74 (95%) patients had respiratory symptoms, while fatigue and fever were reported by 21 (28%) and 20 (27%), respectively. Immunization status against pertussis was unknown. Most cases were reported after 2005 (69; 93%).

Conclusions: Our study describes 74 cases of pertussis acquired during travel and reported to the GeoSentinel Network. Pertussis should be considered in returned travelers who present with respiratory symptoms. Surveillance and detection of imported cases are important to prevent onward transmission in the community. The pre-travel consultation provides an opportunity to verify immunization status and provide routine vaccinations such as pertussis.

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