Outbreak of Pertussis on a College Campus



      Pertussis is increasing among adolescents and adults despite universal childhood vaccination. This investigation describes an outbreak of pertussis among undergraduate students and assesses the burden of cough illness on a college campus.


      Students presenting with prolonged cough were evaluated with culture, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and serology. An e-mail survey was performed to determine the burden of cough illness on campus.


      Thirty-seven undergraduates were evaluated. Their mean duration of cough was 28 days. No student had cultures positive for B. pertussis; one was PCR positive. Ten (27%) had serologic values consistent with acute pertussis infection. The e-mail survey was returned by 225/500 (45%) students. Of these, 66 (29%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 23%-36%) reported a cough of 2 weeks or longer duration during the fall semester. A conservative estimate showed that the campus-wide incidence of a cough illness meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case definition for pertussis was 13% (95% CI, 10%-16%) during the fall semester.


      Adolescents and young adults are susceptible to pertussis infection. This study demonstrates that there was a substantial rate of pertussis infection during an outbreak on a college campus. Our findings support the routine use of the acellular pertussis vaccine in adolescents and adults.


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