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Epidemiology of pertussis-related paediatric intensive care unit (ICU) admissions in Australia, 1997–2013: an observational study
  1. Marlena C Kaczmarek1,2,
  2. Robert S Ware1,2,
  3. Julie A McEniery3,
  4. Mark G Coulthard3,4,
  5. Stephen B Lambert1,5
  1. 1UQ Child Health Research Centre, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  3. 3Division of Critical Care, Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4Academic Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  5. 5Communicable Diseases Branch, Queensland Health, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Marlena C Kaczmarek; m.kaczmarek{at}


Objective To review the epidemiology of pertussis-related intensive care unit (ICU) admissions across Australia, over a 17-year period.

Design Retrospective descriptive study.

Setting Australian ICUs contributing data to the Australian and New Zealand Paediatric Intensive Care (ANZPIC) Registry. The number of contributing ICUs increased over the study period, from 8 specialist paediatric ICUs in 1997 to 8 specialist paediatric and 13 general ICUs in 2013.

Participants All paediatric (<16 years) ICU admissions, coded as pertussis-related, between 1 January 1997 and 31 December 2013.

Results A total of 373 pertussis-coded ICU admissions were identified in the ANZPIC Registry over the study period. Of these cases, 52.8% occurred during the 4 years of the recent Australian epidemic (2009–2012). ICU admissions were most likely to occur in infants aged younger than 6 weeks (41.8%, n=156) and aged 6 weeks to 4 months (42.9%, n=160). The median length of stay for pertussis-related ICU admissions was 3.6 days, with 77.5% of cases staying in ICU for <7 days. Approximately half of all admissions (54.8%) required some form of respiratory support, with 32.7% requiring invasive respiratory support. Over the study period, 23 deaths were recorded (6.2% of pertussis-related ICU admissions), of which 20 (87.0%) were infants <4 months old.

Conclusions Pertussis-related ICU admissions occur primarily in infants too young to be fully protected from active immunisation. More needs to be done to protect these high-risk infants, such as maternal immunisation.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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