OBJECTIVE: To estimate the prevalence and clinical severity of whooping cough (pertussis) in school age children presenting with persistent cough in primary care since the introduction and implementation of the preschool pertussis booster vaccination.
DESIGN: Prospective cohort study (November 2010 to December 2012).
SETTING: General practices in Thames Valley, UK.
PARTICIPANTS: 279 children aged 5 to 15 years who presented in primary care with a persistent cough of two to eight weeks' duration. Exclusion criteria were cough likely to be caused by a serious underlying medical condition, known immunodeficiency or immunocompromise, participation in another clinical research study, and preschool pertussis booster vaccination received less than one year previously.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Evidence of recent pertussis infection based on an oral fluid anti-pertussis toxin IgG titre of at least 70 arbitrary units. Cough frequency was measured in six children with laboratory confirmed pertussis.
RESULTS: 56 (20%, 95% confidence interval 16% to 25%) children had evidence of recent pertussis infection, including 39 (18%, 13% to 24%) of 215 children who had been fully vaccinated. The risk of pertussis was more than three times higher (21/53; 40%, 26% to 54%) in children who had received the preschool pertussis booster vaccination seven years or more previously than in those who had received it less than seven years previously (20/171; 12%, 7% to 17%). The risk of pertussis was similar between children who received five and three component preschool pertussis booster vaccines (risk ratio for five component vaccine 1.14, 0.64 to 2.03). Four of six children in whom cough frequency was measured coughed more than 400 times in 24 hours.
CONCLUSIONS: Pertussis can still be found in a fifth of school age children who present in primary care with persistent cough and can cause clinically significant cough in fully vaccinated children. These findings will help to inform consideration of the need for an adolescent pertussis booster vaccination in the United Kingdom.
STUDY REGISTRATION: UK Clinical Research Network portfolio ID 8361.