Pertussis: An Overview of the Disease, Immunization, and Trends for Nurses

Regena Spratling, MS, RN, CPNP; Myra Carmon, EdD, RN, CPNP


Pediatr Nurs. 2010;36(5):239-244. 

In This Article

Reporting of Pertussis Cases

The nurse has an important role in reporting cases to the appropriate authorities to minimize a potential outbreak in the population. In the U.S., pertussis is a notifiable disease at the state level. All health care providers, including nurses, are required by law to report any laboratory-confirmed or clinically diagnosed cases of pertussis. The reporting ensures public health follow up, identification of outbreaks, and monitoring of disease trends (Georgia Department of Human Resources, n.d.). For information specific to your state, visit your state's Department of Human Resources Web site.

The CDC (2007) receives information from all states on pertussis outbreaks. This information includes pertussis case information via the National Electronic Transmittal System for Surveillance. Another system, the Supplementary Pertussis Surveillance System, receives disease information as well. The surveillance systems for pertussis in the U.S. are helpful in monitoring disease trends and have noted the increased incidence of pertussis in all age groups, particularly adolescents and adults (CDC, 2007).

In recent years, a closer analysis of these outbreaks has prompted revisions to the immunization schedule in the U.S. Khan et al. (2006) provides an example of an outbreak of pertussis in Missouri of primarily adolescents in school. The study concluded that missed doses of vaccine, early administration of fifth dose of vaccine, and a short interval between fourth and fifth vaccine doses increased the risk of pertussis. This study gave evidence to the importance of completion of the vaccination series and the prevalence of adolescents in pertussis outbreaks. For nurses, the primary intervention for pertussis is education about immunizations and administration of the pertussis vaccine. Another intervention is the prompt evaluation and treatment of potential cases, with the nurse in a pivotal role of recognizing cases and notifying the appropriate authorities and other health care providers. Nurses also have an important role in minimizing barriers to immunizations through active involvement in reminding parents about immunization schedules, avoiding missed opportunities to vaccinate in the clinical setting, and participating in non-traditional places for immunizations, such as shopping malls, grocery stores, and schools.


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