Whooping cough has lifelong health impact

Author: Lund University

Date: Jun 2013

People born during whooping cough outbreaks are more likely to die prematurely even if they survive into adulthood, research at Lund University in Sweden has found. Women had a 20% higher risk of an early death, and men a staggering 40%. Women also suffered more complications during and after pregnancy, with an increased risk of miscarriage as well as infant death within the first month of life.

The results show the importance of following up patients with exposure to whooping cough in childhood, particularly pregnant women, says Luciana Quaranta, the PhD student at Lund University behind the findings.

The landmark study used a globally unique database, the Scanian Economic Demographic Database, based on data from Sweden's extensive population registers. Quaranta mapped five communities between 1813 and 1968, in an effort to understand how conditions at birth, such as socioeconomic status and exposure to infectious diseases, affect us later in life.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, was widely considered to have been all but eradicated in many developed countries until recently. The UK, the US and Australia have all seen outbreaks of the disease in the past two years.

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Last revised: 26 June 2015

Next review: 26 June 2018