What is pertussis (whooping cough)?

Updated: May 02, 2019
  • Author: Joseph J Bocka, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Answer

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a respiratory tract infection characterized by a paroxysmal cough. The most common causative organism is Bordetella pertussis (see the image below), though Bordetella parapertussis has also been associated with this condition in humans. Pertussis remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in infants younger than 2 years.

A photomicrograph of the bacterium Bordetella pert A photomicrograph of the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, using Gram stain technique.

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