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A study was undertaken in general practice to clarify those factors, especially vaccinations, that influence the clinical picture and infectivity of whooping cough in the community. Although the range of the disease encountered was fairly mild, its duration was notable (mean +/- SD 50.9 +/- 32.1 days). By using multiway contingency table analysis it was found that in the more severe cases of whooping cough vaccination significantly shortened the illness (p less than 0.005) and reduced the number of coughing spasms (p less than 0.025). The protective effect of the vaccine was most notable in modifying infectivity within the family: 19% of vaccinated family contacts of index patients in whom the disease had been confirmed bacteriologically developed the disease when exposed to it compared with 72% of non-vaccinated contacts (p less than 0.001). These results show that whooping cough vaccination modifies the clinical illness and offers a worthwhile degree of protection to children exposed to the disease.