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Pertussis / Whooping Cough (Bordetella pertussis)
1990 Case Definition

Clinical Description

A cough illness lasting at least 2 weeks with one of the following: paroxysms of coughing, inspiratory "whoop," or post-tussive vomiting -- and without other apparent cause (as reported by a health professional)

Laboratory Criteria for Diagnosis

Isolation of Bordetella pertussis from clinical specimen

Case Classification


Meets the clinical case definition, is not laboratory confirmed, and is not epidemiologically linked to a laboratory-confirmed case


A clinically compatible case that is laboratory confirmed or epidemiologically linked to a laboratory-confirmed case


The clinical case definition above is appropriate for endemic or sporadic cases. In outbreak settings, a case may be defined as a cough illness lasting at least 2 weeks (as reported by a health professional). Because direct fluorescent antibody testing of nasopharyngeal secretions has been shown in some studies to have low sensitivity and variable specificity, it should not be relied on as a criterion for laboratory confirmation.1,2 Both probable and confirmed cases should be reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS).


  1. Broome CV, Fraser DW, English WJ. Pertussis--diagnostic methods and surveillance. In: Manclark CR, Hill JC, eds. International Symposium on Pertussis. Bethesda, MD: US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, 1979; DHEW publication no. (NIH)79-1830:19-22.
  2. Halperin SA, Bortolussi R, Wort AJ. Evaluation of culture, immunofluorescence, and serology for the diagnosis of pertussis. J Clin Microbiol 1989;27:752-7.