Background: In Lithuania, the vaccination coverage against pertussis is high. Nevertheless, there is a significant increase in pertussis cases in fully immunized children. The aim of our study was to determine the frequency of classical symptoms of laboratory confirmed pertussis and describe its epidemiology in children fully vaccinated against pertussis.
Methods: From May to December 2001, 70 children aged 1 month to 15 years, suffering from prolonged cough were investigated in the Centre of Paediatrics, Vilnius University Children's Hospital. The collected information included personal data, vaccination history, clinical symptoms of the current illness, and treatment before hospitalization. At the admission to the hospital blood samples were taken from all studied children for Bordetella pertussis IgM and IgA.
Results: A total of 53 (75.7%) of the 70 recruited patients with prolonged cough showed laboratory evidence of pertussis. 32 of them were fully vaccinated with whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP). The age of fully vaccinated patients varied from 4 to 15 years (average 10.9 +/- 3.1; median 11). The time period between the last vaccination dose (fourth) and the clinical manifestation of pertussis was 2.6-13 years (average 8.9 +/- 3.0; median 9). More than half of the children before the beginning of pertussis were in contact with persons suffering from long lasting cough illness in the family, school or day-care center. The mean duration from onset of pertussis symptoms until hospitalization was 61.4 +/- 68.3 days (range, 7 to 270 days; median 30). For 11 patients who had had two episodes (waves) of coughing, the median duration of cough was 90 days, and for 21 with one episode 30 days (p < 0.0002). Most of the children (84.4%) had paroxysmal cough, 31.3% had post-tussive vomiting, 28.1% typical whoop, and 3.1% apnea. Only 15.6% children had atypical symptoms of pertussis.
Conclusion: Fully vaccinated children fell ill with pertussis at the median of 11 years old, 9 years following pertussis vaccination. More than half of the children could catch pertussis at home, at school or day-care center. Clinical picture of pertussis in previously immunized children is usually characterized by such classical symptoms as prolonged and paroxysmal cough, rarely by whopping and post-tussive vomiting, and very rarely by apnea.