Immunisation against whooping cough should be made available for adults who work in close contact with children, it has been suggested.
New Zealand researchers writing in the British Journal of General Practice found that 22% of adults with an acute persistent cough either worked with children or in the health sector.
In such cases, pertussis - commonly known as whooping cough - was three times more likely to be the cause, compared with other sub-groups.
Dr Kathryn Philipson and Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith from the University of Auckland led the study, which involved 70 children and 156 adults under the age of 50.
They used an oral fluid swab that enabled diagnostic testing to distinguish pertussis from other coughing illnesses.
The bacterial disease is highly contagious. Although symptoms are initially mild, it develops into severe coughing fits that produce the namesake high-pitched “whoop” sound.
It is currently difficult to distinguish pertussis from other causes of acute persistent cough in populations that have received booster immunisations.
Researchers claim the oral swab has the potential for greatly increased understanding of pertussis epidemiology and that the test should be widely available in primary care settings.
It is also recommend that this should be taken into consideration when planning immunisation strategies to protect groups more likely to come into contact with children.
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