Pertussis outbreak in an elementary school with high vaccination coverage

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2001 Dec;20(12):1108-12. doi: 10.1097/00006454-200112000-00003.


Background: An outbreak of pertussis in a US elementary school with high vaccination coverage was investigated to evaluate vaccine effectiveness and to identify potential contributing factors.

Methods: Survey and cohort study of all 215 students of an elementary school (including 36 case patients) and 16 secondary cases among contacts.

Results: Fifty-two pertussis cases were identified (attack rate among students, 17%). Receipt of <3 doses of pertussis-containing-vaccine compared with receipt of complete vaccination series was a significant risk factor for pertussis [relative risk, 5.1; 95% confidence interval (CI), 3 to 8.6]. The effectiveness of the complete vaccination series was 80% (95% CI 66 to 88). No evidence of waning immunity among students was found. The following contributing factors for the outbreak were identified: multiple introductions of pertussis from the community; delays in identification and treatment of early cases; and high contact rates among students. Antimicrobial treatment initiated >14 days after cough onset was associated with increased risk of further transmission of pertussis (relative risk, 10.1; 95% CI 1.5 to 70.3) compared with treatment within 14 days of onset.

Conclusions: This investigation demonstrated the potential for pertussis outbreaks to occur in well-vaccinated elementary school populations. Aggressive efforts to identify cases and contacts and timely antimicrobial treatment can limit spread of pertussis in similar settings. High vaccination coverage should be maintained, because vaccination significantly reduces the risk of the disease throughout the elementary school years, and to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment health care providers should maintain a high index of suspicion for pertussis among elementary school age children.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bordetella pertussis / genetics
  • Bordetella pertussis / immunology*
  • Bordetella pertussis / isolation & purification
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pertussis Vaccine / administration & dosage*
  • Pertussis Vaccine / immunology
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools
  • Vaccination
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology*
  • Whooping Cough / immunology
  • Whooping Cough / prevention & control


  • Pertussis Vaccine