Highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract and lungs caused by Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis produces a cough that is characteristic of the infection. Violent, repeated coughing is punctuated by a rapid gasp (whoop) of inspiration. People with this infection take a rapid breath in, which causes a whooping sound and then go into another bout of coughing. This pattern of coughing and whooping inspirations has led to the nickname whooping cough. Infants are particularly prone to severe infections. In them the infection can be severe enough to require a respirator and also affect the brain, leading to life-long impairment. Pertussis is still around; 5,137 pertussis cases were reported in 1995. An outbreak of 32 confirmed and probable cases recently occurred among students in a private, Minnesota school.
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