Pertussis case definition

This document contains the case definitions for pertussis which is nationally notifiable within Australia. This definition should be used to determine whether a case should be notified.

Page last updated: 16 January 2014



Both confirmed cases and probable cases should be notified.

Confirmed case

A confirmed case requires either:

  • Laboratory definitive evidence


  • Laboratory suggestive evidence AND clinical evidence

Probable case

A probable case requires clinical evidence AND epidemiological evidence

Laboratory definitive evidence

Isolation of Bordetella pertussis


Detection of B. pertussis by nucleic acid testing


Seroconversion in paired sera for B.pertussis using whole cell or specific B.pertussis antigen(s) in the absence of recent pertussis vaccination

Laboratory suggestive evidence

In the absence of recent vaccination

Significant change (increase or decrease) in antibody level (IgG, IgA) to B. pertussis whole cell or B. pertussis specific antigen(s)


Single high IgG and/or IgA titre to Pertussis Toxin (PT)


Single high IgA titre to Whole Cell B.pertussis antigen.

Clinical evidence

A coughing illness lasting two or more weeks


Paroxysms of coughing OR inspiratory whoop OR post-tussive vomiting.

Epidemiological evidence

An epidemiological link is established when there is:

Contact between two people involving a plausible mode of transmission at a time when:

  1. one of them is likely to be infectious (from the catarrhal stage, approximately one week before, to three weeks after onset of cough)


  1. the other has an illness which starts within 6 to 20 days after this contact


At least one case in the chain of epidemiologically linked cases (which may involve many cases) is a confirmed case with either laboratory definitive or laboratory suggestive evidence.

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