A new analysis by researchers at UCLA Health finds public health prevention measures taken during the COVID pandemic led to a dramatic drop in whooping cough cases in their health system. Whooping cough, or pertussis, spreads rapidly through droplet transmission, impacting individuals of all ages.
Whooping cough is vaccine preventable, however immunity wanes over time. When patients seek care, the risk of transmission to other patients and healthcare workers can be high. The researchers sought to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 mitigation measures, like masking and school closures, on the number of primary pertussis cases in patients and secondary cases in staff members at ambulatory clinics at their institution before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pertussis cases for 2019, 2020, and 2021 were 1,008, 87, and 0 respectively. There were no reported health care worker exposures after March 2020. The authors say their findings demonstrate that masking can impact respiratory disease transmission outside of COVID-19, and that the results are of clinical importance in healthcare as they show how wearing a mask with symptomatic respiratory patients can be beneficial in reducing exposure to healthcare workers.