Has there been a resurgence of whooping cough?

Some countries have noticed a resurgence in whooping cough cases since about 2005 and especially 2011-12. WHO SAGE report 2016

Included are the USA, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

Denmark has not seen a resurgence (although currently seems to be suffering outbreaks. October 2019), neither have countries that have continued to use whole cell vaccine.

Many people including myself think that most, if not all, of the increase results from better awareness. This website for instance had been helping people understand whooping cough since 2000.

Also important is the easy confirmation by blood or oral fluid testing or PCR testing that became popular at the same time as the supposed resurgence in the mid noughties.

Before the resurgence diagnosis mainly depended on a doctor confirming it. Most did not have the knowledge to do so, or thought it was not necessary to notify unless confirmed. After this time a simple test from the lab was all that was required.

Blamed for the resurgence has been acellular vaccine used by all the above countries for roughly 20 years.

Acellular vaccine is not as long lasting and may allow it to spread more easily.

The jury is still out on whether there are significantly more cases now. It is likely that it was always there but nobody was counting properly.


This page has been reviewed and updated on 20 March 2023