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Adults too can have whooping cough

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is not just restricted to childhood, but may infect one at any age.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 27, 2008 15:30 IST

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is not just restricted to childhood, but may infect one at any age.

But the risk of a pertussis infection can be greatly reduced by vaccination, as Marion Riffelmann of Krefeld Institute for Infectious Diseases in Germany and her colleagues have found in their study. Their findings have appeared in the current edition of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.

Pertussis is actually one of the classical diseases of childhood, occurring mainly in unvaccinated babies. The clinical course at this age may be severe; pertussis is the most frequent fatal infectious disease in newborns.

Nevertheless, the number of reported attacks of whooping cough in schoolchildren, adolescents and adults has markedly increased in recent years. Roughly 0.2-0.5 percent of adolescents and adults fall ill each year with pertussis and a protracted cough.

About 25 per cent of adult patients develop complications, such as seizures, inflammation of the middle ear or circulatory collapse, reports Eurekalert.

Although the standard treatment with antibiotics interrupts the chain of infection, it does not influence the symptoms. Riffelmann said the most effective pertussis prevention is vaccination with a combination vaccine. However, regular boosters are needed, as the vaccination protection continuously decreases after five years.