Although the introduction of universal pertussis immunisation in infants has greatly reduced the number of reported cases in infants and young children, disease incidence has been increasing in adolescents and adults in recent years. This changing epidemiological pattern is probably largely attributable to waning immunity after natural infection or vaccination. Furthermore, improved diagnostic testing, active surveillance, changes in disease susceptibility, vaccine characteristics, and increased awareness of the disease might also be contributing factors. Susceptibility to pertussis in adolescents and adults results not only in direct morbidity in these age groups, but also poses a transmission risk to susceptible non-immune infants who are often too young to be vaccinated. Because vaccination schedules vary across Europe, we review the pertussis situation in this region and propose considerations for use of pertussis booster vaccinations at different ages to reduce individual morbidity and transmission from present rates and increase herd protection.
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