- Whooping cough, a communicable, potentially deadly illness characterized by fits of coughing followed by a noisy, “whooping” indrawn breath. It is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. The illness is most likely to affect young children, but sometimes appears in teenagers and adults, even those who have been previously immunized. Immunization with DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) vaccine provides protection, although that immunity may wear off with age. When teenagers and adults get pertussis, it appears first as coughing spasms, and then a stubborn dry cough lasting up to eight weeks. Treatment is by supportive therapy, and young infants need hospitalization if the coughing
* * *An acute infectious inflammation of the larynx, trachea, and bronchi caused by Bordetella p.; characterized by recurrent bouts of spasmodic coughing that continues until the breath is exhausted, then ending in a noisy inspiratory stridor (the “whoop”) caused by laryngeal spasm. SYN: p. syndrome, whooping cough. [L. per, very (intensive), + tussis, cough]
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* * *per·tus·sis (pər-tusґis) [L. per intensive + tussis] an acute contagious infection of the respiratory tract, usually seen in young children and caused by Bordetella pertussis. After an incubation period of about two weeks, there is a catarrhal stage for about two weeks, consisting of slight fever, sneezing, runny nose, and dry cough. Then comes the paroxysmal stage, lasting three to four weeks, with the characteristic paroxysmal cough that gives the condition its name: the patient has a deep inspiration followed by a series of quick, short coughs that continue until the air is expelled from the lungs to end with a long shrill, whooping inspiration because of spasmodic closure of the glottis. The last stage of disease is the convalescent stage, in which paroxysms diminish and finally cease. See also parapertussis. Called also whooping cough.
Medical dictionary. 2011.