Failure of physicians to consider the diagnosis of pertussis in children

Clin Infect Dis. 1999 Apr;28(4):840-6. doi: 10.1086/515203.


To determine the ability of physicians to make a diagnosis of pertussis and factors associated with improved diagnosis, 8,235 children from 88 child care centers and 14 elementary schools from Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, were evaluated by using a questionnaire completed by parents and a medical record review. Children must have consulted a physician to be included in the evaluation. There were 558 children meeting the surveillance case definition and 416 meeting a modified World Health Organization case definition who consulted a physician. A diagnosis of pertussis was considered in 24%-26% of children meeting either case definition, made in 12%-14%, and reported for 6%. Pertussis diagnosis was significantly associated with having a history of pertussis exposure (P < or = .003), four pertussis-related symptoms (P < .001), and a cough for > or = 5 weeks (P < or = .05) and consulting in a hospital setting (P < or = .03). The proportion of cases of pertussis diagnosed and reported is low even when children present with classical symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Family Practice
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sentinel Surveillance
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Whooping Cough / diagnosis*
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology