Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

What is Whooping Cough or Pertussis?

Whooping cough (pertussis) is an extremely contagious respiratory infection caused by bacteria. The disease causes uncontrolled coughing and vomiting, which can last for several months and can be particularly dangerous for babies under the age of 12 months.

Babies are at greatest risk of contracting whooping cough until they have had at least two doses of the whooping cough vaccine.

In a household where someone has whooping cough, an estimated 80-90% of the unimmunised people in contact with that person will acquire the disease.

What causes whooping cough?

Whooping cough is spread when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes small droplets into the air, which may be breathed in by those nearby. Infection may be spread by contact with hands, tissues and other articles soiled by infected nose and throat discharges.

What are the symptoms?

It takes between seven and 20 days after infection for the symptoms of whooping cough to appear. The disease begins like a common cold, before it develops.

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How to prevent it?

Whooping cough vaccine is the best way to reduce the risk of whooping cough in children. The National Immunisation Program schedule recommends doses of vaccine to be given at two, four and six months of age, with booster doses at 18 months, four years and at 10-15 years. To receive a child pertussis immunisation, visit your local doctor or immunisation provider.

A single booster dose of adult formulation pertussis vaccine (dTpa) is recommended for all pregnant women in their third trimester of pregnancy to protect their unborn baby.

A dose is also recommended for all carers at least two weeks before close contact with the infant to reduce the chance of passing on the bacteria.

Whooping cough can cause severe disease in the elderly, A single booster dose is recommended for older people if they haven’t received a previous dose in the last 10 years.

For more information on whooping cough immunisation talk to your GP or health provider.