Who gives pertussis to infants? Source of infection for laboratory confirmed cases less than 12 months of age during an epidemic, Sydney, 2009

Commun Dis Intell Q Rep. 2010 Jun;34(2):116-21.


An important approach to protecting infants against pertussis is to provide a booster vaccination to close contacts, however this strategy requires a good understanding of infection sources to be effective. The objective of this study was to identify the most important sources of transmission of pertussis infection to infants, regardless of hospitalisation status. Standardised interviews were conducted during routine follow-up calls with the parent or guardian of laboratory confirmed pertussis cases less than 12 months of age notified to 3 Sydney metropolitan public health units during a pertussis outbreak from January to May 2009. All contacts with a coughing illness or laboratory confirmed pertussis during the 3 weeks prior to onset of illness in the index case, were recorded. A source of infection could not be identified for 29 infants (31%) and a total of 86 known or suspected sources were identified for the other 66 infants. The most frequently identified sources were siblings (36%) and parents (24%), followed by other family members (21%), friends (13%), and settings outside the home such as medical centres (6%). Of 20 siblings aged 3 or 4 years, 16 (80%) were sources of infection, compared with 14 of the 44 (32%) other siblings less than 18 years of age. During this epidemic siblings were more important sources of infant infection than parents. Siblings aged 3 and 4 years of age were particularly important transmitters of pertussis infection to infants. Minimising pertussis infection in 3 and 4 year olds may be an important measure to prevent infant infection.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Immunization Schedule
  • Infant
  • Male
  • New South Wales
  • Risk Factors
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology
  • Whooping Cough / mortality
  • Whooping Cough / transmission*


  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine