Pertussis (Whooping Cough): Responding to the Epidemic

August 12, 2014

by Dr. Edward I. Blackman, M.D., FCAP

Pertussis is commonly referred to as “whooping cough” because of the severe coughing and gasping for breath which produce a characteristic whooping sound, especially in children. The symptoms of pertussis may vary widely, especially in older patients and previously vaccinated patients. Infants are at risk for severe disease.

We are currently experiencing a pertussis epidemic in our community. As of July 8, 2014, 5,393 cases of pertussis have been reported in California, with 175 cases in Ventura County. With a rate of 20.83 cases per 100,000 persons, the incidence rate in Ventura County is higher than the statewide average.

Cases have occurred in all age groups, but 90% of reported cases have occurred in pediatric patients (less than 18 years of age) with 71% of pediatric cases occurring in patients aged 7 to 16.

Rapid diagnosis is beneficial, to initiate appropriate antibiotic treatment in infected patients, and to avoid inappropriate treatment in un-infected patients.

At TOPA Diagnostics, we use the Illumigene nucleic acid amplification assay, based on loop-mediated isothermal amplification technology. Results are generally available within one hour of specimen receipt in the lab, and since TOPA is located in the Conejo Valley, transportation time is minimized.

TOPA Diagnostics is an independent clinical laboratory specializing in surgical pathology, cytopathology, and molecular diagnostics.  TOPA offers rapid molecular testing for pertussis, GI pathogens (bacteria, parasites, and viruses) and Group A streptococcus and chlamydia/gonorrhea. Additional tests are in development.

By offering rapid diagnostic testing, TOPA can provide office-based physicians with the timely results needed to insure optimum patient care.

For additional information, call Edward Blackman MD, 805-373-8582,, website: