An Observational Study of Severe Pertussis in 100 Infants ≤120 Days of Age

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Abstract

Background:

Pertussis in young infants is a unique, severe, afebrile, cough illness that is frequently fatal.

Methods:

All pertussis cases ≤120 days of age admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit in California between October 1, 2013, and April 25, 2015, were evaluated.

Results:

Of 100 pertussis patients ≤120 days of age admitted to pediatric intensive care unit, there were 5 deaths. The white blood cell counts in the fatal cases were significantly higher than in the nonfatal cases. Thirty-four percent of patients were intubated, 18% received inotropic and/or vasoactive support, 22% received steroid, 4% received extracorporal membrane oxygenation, and 3% underwent exchange blood transfusion. The median age at the time of illness onset in the patients who died was 23 days.

Conclusions:

These data, as well as data from previous California studies, suggest updated strategies for the management of severe pertussis. These include perform serial white blood cell counts, treat all presumptive cases with azithromycin, evaluate for pulmonary hypertension, intubate and administer oxygen for apneic episodes and administer inotropic/vasoactive agents for cardiogenic shock. Do not administer steroids or nitric oxide. Criteria for exchange blood transfusion therapy for leukocytosis with lymphocytosis are suggested.

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