Objective: To estimate morbidity due to Bordetella pertussis infection in a representative population of Australian adults.
Design: Telephone survey using structured questionnaire.
Participants: Adults (aged 20 years and over) notified with pertussis to a public health unit in western Sydney between 1 December 1997 and 31 May 1998.
Main outcome measures: Duration of cough; time to improvement; symptoms and complications; time to diagnosis; health resource use; lost work days.
Results: Of 90 eligible patients, 73 (81%) completed questionnaires. Cough lasted a median of 60 days, but persisted over 90 days in 20 people (27%). Presentation was within a median of seven days of symptom onset, but diagnosis of pertussis took a median of 21 days. Participants reported a mean of 3.7 general practitioner visits and 1.2 prescription drugs. Of those employed, 17 (35%) missed more than five work days (range, 0-93 days).
Conclusions: B. pertussis infection in adults can result in prolonged, significant disruption to social and working life. Results suggest that, in 1998, there were more than 8000 general practitioner visits and 15,000 lost work days caused by pertussis in Australian adults.