Site last updated 03/07/2018
Copyright® Sanofi Pasteur 2014
Macquarie Park NSW 2113
This website is for Australian residents only.

Whooping cough

Whooping Cough

Did you know that adults can catch whooping cough too

Half of whooping cough cases in Australia are in adults

It’s easy to think of whooping cough (also called pertussis) as a disease that only affects children and babies. But whooping cough in adults is more common than you might think.

THE FACTS

  • In 2016, over 20,000 Australians caught whooping cough1 and over 8,499 of these people were adults.
  • Adults aged 20 years or older accounted for more than half of all the whooping cough cases reported in Australia between 2011 and 2016.1
  • Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease, spreading to 90% of susceptible household contacts.2
  • Whooping cough epidemics occur every 3 to 4 years.2

Although serious and life-threatening to babies, whooping cough can also cause serious health complications in adults. One of the most common symptoms of whooping cough is the persistent or “100 day cough”. When left untreated or undiagnosed symptoms of whooping cough can continue to worsen and manifest in the following:

  • fits of rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched ‘whoop’ sound
  • vomiting during or after coughing fits
  • exhaustion after coughing fits3

Many Australians have been vaccinated as a child, infant and adolescent. However, vaccinations received in childhood do not provide adequate protection against the disease in adult years. This is because immunity after vaccination diminishes over time, therefore leaving people at a greater risk of catching the disease.

If you are unsure if you are up to date with your vaccinations, speak to your healthcare professional.

The Australian Immunisation Handbook recommends vaccination for “any adult who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with pertussis.”2


FAQS

As whooping cough is a highly contagious disease, it can be caught whenever an infected person comes in contact with a susceptible person.
Simply put, whooping cough is spread from person to person through a fine mist of tiny droplets in the air. These tiny droplets are transmitted between people through close contact with an infected person. In an infected person, the tiny droplets contain the bacteria Bordetella pertussis.2 This bacterium gives its name – pertussis – to the disease we commonly call whooping cough.
If you breathe in the tiny droplets of bacteria, you become exposed to the highly contagious disease. You can also get whooping cough from sharing food or drinks or from close contact like kissing.

Whooping cough can be serious and life-threatening to babies. They are at increased risk until they’ve received 3 doses of vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.2
Whooping cough can be debilitating for adults. It is sometimes called the 100-day cough because the average duration of cough for an adult with whooping cough is 3 months.

If you are exposed to whooping cough – and your immunity is low – you would typically develop symptoms within 5 to 10 days.4
Whooping cough often begins like a cold3. In a typical case, your symptoms might include:

  • a blocked or runny nose
  • sneezing
  • mild fever
  • a cough4

Complications of whooping cough are usually less serious in adults, especially if you have been vaccinated. In one study, the most common complications reported were:

  • weight loss in 1 out of 3 adults
  • loss of bladder control in 1 out of 4 adults
  • passing out in 3 out of 50 adults5
  • rib fracture from severe coughing in 1 out of 25 adults

The whooping cough vaccination is provided at 2, 4 and 6 months then again at 18 months, 4 years and during adolescence under the National Immunisaiton Program. However, protection against whooping cough will decrease over time and many adults will no longer be protected.
See your healthcare professional to talk about your vaccination status.

You can check your immunisation status with your GP or healthcare professional at any visit.
If you are planning a trip overseas, you could speak to your GP or travel medicine specialist and discuss vaccination options suitable for you.

National Immunisation Program Schedule

Age Acellular Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
2 months X
4 months X
6 months X
18 months* X
4 years X

* New 18 month recommendation on National Immunisation Program as of 23rd February 2016

WHOOPING COUGH INFO FOR YOUR STATE


WHOOPING COUGH CASES
2018 TO DATE

WHOOPING COUGH CASES 2018 TO DATE 11,284

11,284

WA NT SA VIC TAS ACT QLD NSW WA NT SA VIC TAS ACT QLD NSW

2017 NOTIFIED CASES TO DATE BY STATE

VACCINATION PROGRAMS IN THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

The Australian Capital Territory does not have an adult whooping cough vaccination program.

Please refer to the State Health Department website for up-to-date local information.

A single booster dose of adult whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all adults planning a pregnancy, for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant, grandparents, healthcare and childcare workers.

VACCINATION PROGRAMS IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY

The Northern Territory currently has a free adult whooping cough vaccination program.

Free whooping cough combination vaccines for adults can be offered to the following groups:

  • All fathers and carers in the same household of an infant under the age of 7 months. The vaccine can be given to this group from the time the expectant mother has reached the 28th week of pregnancy.
  • All new mothers after delivery of the baby if they have not received the vaccine in hospital prior to discharge (the vaccine is not given during pregnancy).

Other high risk groups who should receive vaccine by obtaining a prescription from their doctor include:

  • Health care workers
  • Parents planning a pregnancy
  • Adults working with young children including child care workers and teachers

Please refer to the State Health Department website for up-to-date program information.

A single booster dose of adult whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all adults planning a pregnancy, for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant, grandparents, healthcare and childcare workers.

VACCINATION PROGRAMS IN NEW SOUTH WALES

New mothers in NSW public hospitals are able to get a free pertussis vaccine if they have not received it in the last five years.

Please refer to the State Health Department website for up-to-date program information.

A single booster dose of adult whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all adults planning a pregnancy, for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant, grandparents, healthcare and childcare workers.2

VACCINATION PROGRAMS IN VICTORIA

Victoria does not have an adult whooping cough vaccination program.

Please refer to the State Health Department website for up-to-date program information.

A single booster dose of adult whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all adults planning a pregnancy, for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant, grandparents, healthcare and childcare workers.

VACCINATION PROGRAMS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Western Australia does not have an adult funded whooping cough vaccination program.

Please refer to the State Health Department website for up-to-date program information.

A single booster dose of adult whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all adults planning a pregnancy, for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant, grandparents, healthcare and childcare workers.

VACCINATION PROGRAMS IN TASMANIA

Tasmania does not have an adult whooping cough vaccination program.

Please refer to the State Health Department website for whooping cough information.

A single booster dose of adult whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all adults planning a pregnancy, for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant, grandparents, healthcare and childcare workers.

VACCINATION PROGRAMS IN QUEENSLAND

Queensland does not have an adult whooping cough vaccination program.

Please refer to the State Health Department website for up-to-date program information.

A single booster dose of adult whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all adults planning a pregnancy, for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant, grandparents, healthcare and childcare workers.

VACCINATION PROGRAMS IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

South Australia does not have an adult whooping cough vaccination program.

Please refer to the State Health Department website for whooping cough information.

A single booster dose of adult whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all adults planning a pregnancy, for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant, grandparents, healthcare and childcare workers.

  1. Australian Government Department of Health. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. Available at: http://www9.health.gov.au/cda/source/cda-index.cfm
  2. NHMRC. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. 2013; 10th edition: Pertussis: 302 – 316. Available at: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part4~handbook10-4-12
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/faqs.html
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/signs-symptoms.html
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/clinical/complications.html