Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease and is spread by droplets from coughing and sneezing from an infected person.

Parents and family members are the main source of infection for babies.

Whooping cough is most serious in babies under 12 months of age, often requiring admission to hospital. Whooping cough can lead to complications such as haemorrhage, convulsions, pneumonia, coma, inflammation of the brain, permanent brain damage and long term lung damage. Around one in every 200 children under six months of age who catches whooping cough will die.

A mother does not pass any protection against whooping cough onto her baby whilst pregnant or breastfeeding.
What are the symptoms?

Whooping cough begins with symptoms similar to those of a cold then quickly leads to:

* Severe coughing spasms
* Vomiting at the end of the coughing spasm
* The baby may stop breathing for periods of time and may go blue
* Poor feeding
* The coughing can last for months
* 'Whooping' sound heard while breathing in

How can you prevent whooping cough?

Immunisation is the best way to control whooping cough and protect your baby. You and any adults
who care for your baby should get a booster vaccine for whooping cough. It is safe to be immunised while breastfeeding.

Whooping cough vaccination is offered as part of the government funded immunisation program for babies at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. Immunisation should be started on time to begin the protection in the baby. A whooping cough immunisation boost is given to children at 4 years of age and in year 10 of secondary school (or 15 years of age).

All parents are urged to check their child’s immunisations and catch up any missed doses with their doctor or council immunisation program.

Protection from immunisation is not life long and begins to fade after six to ten years. A booster vaccine (combined with diphtheria and tetanus) is recommended to maintain protection in the following groups:

* Adults before planning pregnancy, or for both parents as soon as possible after the birth of their baby
* Adults working with or caring for very young babies, especially health care workers and child care workers
* Any adult wishing to protect themselves against whooping cough