Whooping cough (Pertussis) is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory (breathing) tract, caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
Whooping cough can affect all ages, but infants less than 6 months of age are at the greatest risk. The illness is characterised by repeated attacks of coughing followed by a ‘whoop’ when inhaling. However, the ‘whoop’ is not always present in young infants, older children and adults. Sometimes symptoms in adults can be ‘fits’ of coughing brought on by lying down, talking – even laughing. The complications of whooping cough can be very serious.
In Australia, whooping cough outbreaks occur every 3 to 4 years. A person’s immunity to whooping cough after infection or immunisation decreases over time, placing them at risk of infection.
Whooping cough vaccination is recommended and provided free as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for babies aged 2, 4 and 6 months, children aged 4 years and adolescents.
In Australia, vaccination against whooping cough is provided in combination vaccines that also help protect against other diseases.
It is important for children to complete the recommended course of vaccinations on time to help protect them against the disease.
Provided no previous booster of a pertussis containing vaccine has been received, a single booster dose of pertussis vaccine is recommended for adults planning a pregnancy, new parents, grandparents and other carers of young children. The booster dose is recommended for parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant.
Some state and territory governments may provide subsidised immunisation for some adults in close contact with young babies.
Other individuals may also be at risk whooping cough. Please discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor.
In some cases Whooping cough can last 100 days. That’s a lot of coughing!