Whooping cough (WC) has been suggested to be a trigger factor for sudden infant death (SID), the proposed mechanism being unrecognised hypoxaemic episodes. In contrast to Norway, Sweden ceased its immunisation programme against Bordetella pertussis (BP) in 1979. We investigated the relation between SID mortality and the prevalence of BP during 1983 to 1988, by month, in the two ethnically and socially similar, bordering countries adopting different strategies towards WC. In addition, the greater Stockholm area was analysed. For both countries the prevalence of BP was collected from monthly reports by regional health officers. SID mortality rates were provided by the Norwegian Central Bureau of Statistics and the SID registry at the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. The relation between SID mortality rate and prevalence of WC, by month, was analysed by linear regression. In addition, the consistency of seasonal fluctuations was investigated by analysing the covariance between average, pooled, monthly values of the two variables. SID mortality rate followed significantly the monthly prevalence of BP in Sweden (P < 0.01) and Stockholm (P < 0.0001) during the study period. In Norway there was a significant correlation only during the epidemic outbreak of WC (P < 0.05), but not for the whole study period. When controlling for seasonality a significant correlation remained in the urban area of Stockholm (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: It is suggested that covariations between WC and SID mortality rate may be related to transmission rate and immunisation status of the investigated population.