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Sevenfold rise in likelihood of pertussis test requests in a stable set of Australian general practice encounters, 2000–2011

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Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is caused by the small, gram-negative coccobacillus Bordetella pertussis. Classic whooping cough illness is characterised by intense paroxysmal coughing followed by an inspiratory “whoop”, especially in young children or those without prior immunity, followed by a protracted cough.1,2 It is now more widely understood that these characteristic symptoms are not always present during B. pertussis infection, and that individuals may only have symptoms similar to those of the common cold or a non-specific upper respiratory tract infection.2

In recent years, rates of pertussis notifications have increased dramatically across Australia and in many other parts of the world.36 The rise has been seen in all Australian states and territories, with the highest notification rates in children aged under 15 years.7 Although increased notifications may be due to a true increase in circulating B. pertussis, it is possible that the magnitude of the increase has…