What is the pathophysiology of pertussis (whooping cough)?

Updated: May 02, 2019
  • Author: Joseph J Bocka, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Pertussis is highly contagious, developing in approximately 80-90% of susceptible individuals who are exposed to it. Most cases occur in the late summer and early fall.

A mucopurulent sanguineous exudate forms in the respiratory tract. This exudate compromises the small airways (especially those of infants) and predisposes the affected individual to atelectasis, cough, cyanosis, and pneumonia. The lung parenchyma and bloodstream are not invaded; therefore, blood culture results are negative.

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