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Whooping cough

Whooping Cough

 Whooping cough (or pertussis) is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacteria ‘bordetella pertussis‘. Although the infection is mild in adults, if passed on to vulnerable babies it can be life-threatening.

Picture from: Sanofi Pasteur booklet: ‘Preventing disease, Our Passion’.

It is easily spread from person-to-person via droplets from close contact i.e. when you talk, sneeze, cough or kiss.

If you catch it, there is an 80% chance that other members of your household will catch it too.

After being exposed to the bacteria, symptoms will start to appear from 1 to 3 weeks later.

You are contagious for about 7-10 days prior to coughing (so you can pass it on before the main symptoms start to appear) and a further 3 weeks after the coughing starts.

Whooping cough is known as the "100-day cough" because you can have the symptoms for as long as 3 months.

Whooping cough begins with flu-like symptoms such as a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, mild fever, mild cough.

A thick, sticky mucus develops in the windpipe, which makes it difficult to eat, drink and breathe.

In babies, this results in coughing fits often accompanied by a ‘whoop’ as it struggles to catch its breath. The cough can sound similar to this:

The cough can be so bad that it can cause vomiting at the end of it, rupture small blood vessels in the front of the eye or even fracture a rib. However, very young babies may not cough at all, the first sign may be gagging or they could just stopping breathing (apnoea).

Older children and adults may just have a dry, persistent cough often without the ‘whoop’, so many cases are often mistaken for a bad chest cold or bronchitis. Although cases in adults are considered mild, they are still highly contagious and can easily be unknowingly passed on to others.

A single booster dose of adult whooping cough vaccine is recommended for:

  • Adults planning a pregnancy
  • Both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant
  • Grandparents
  • Healthcare workers
  • Childcare workers

Whooping cough is still very much around. In fact, Australia is currently experiencing a whooping cough epidemic. In 2015, there were 22,544 people diagnosed with whooping cough. In 2016, there have already been 16,697 cases reported so far as of 16th November.

A: In adults, whooping cough is considered mild, but may cause coughing episodes for up to 100 days. The main issue lies in adults passing the disease on to babies under six months of age, who are not adequately protected.

Whooping cough is highly contagious, so you can easily spread it just by talking, sneezing, coughing or a simple kiss.

The disease can be serious in babies, causing them to stop breathing (and turn blue), contract pneumonia, have a seizure, suffer brain damage or be fatal.

A: A resistant whooping cough strain has become dominant and responsible for many cases, however further research is needed before any changes can be made. In light of the current epidemic, vaccination is still the best way to help reduce the severity of the infection and help reduce transmission to vulnerable babies.

A: Whooping cough vaccination is recommended for the following adults (who have not had a previous adolescent or adult booster):

  • Couples planning a pregnancy
  • New parents, as soon as possible after the birth
  • Grandparents
  • Other household adult members or carers of young children
  • Healthcare workers
  • Childcare workers
  • Any adult expressing an interest in diphtheria and tetanus vaccine should consider the three in one vaccine containing whooping cough

Whether you've had the disease or the vaccine, immunity to whooping cough only lasts for few years. Check your immunisation history to see if you are due for a booster shot.

If you contract whooping cough, you are contagious from when you first develop the ‘cold-like’ symptoms in the early stages, often before the coughing starts. If you are not treated early, people with whooping cough are infectious for the first three weeks of their illness.

A: Antibiotics will be prescribed if whooping cough is detected early to help prevent spreading the infection to others. After five days of antibiotic treatment (or three weeks of the infection), you will no longer be contagious.

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
2016 TO DATE

WHOOPING COUGH CASES 2016 TO DATE 11,034

11,034

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

2016 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. Immunise Australia Program: Pertussis (Whooping Cough). Available from: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/content/immunise-pertussis [accessed November 2016]
  2. South Australian Government SA Health. Whooping cough (pertussis). Available from: http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/health+topics/health+conditions+prevention+and+treatment/infectious+diseases/whooping+cough/whooping+cough+pertussis+-+including+symptoms+treatment+and+prevention [accessed November 2016]
  3. Victoria State Government: Better Health. Whooping Cough. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/whooping-cough [accessed November 2016]
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis (Whooping Cough). Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/signs-symptoms.html [accessed November 2016]
  5. Australian Government Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Ed: (updated August 2016). Available from: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/handbook10-home [accessed November 2016]
  6. Australian Government Department of Health. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. Available from: http://www9.health.gov.au/cda/source/cda-index.cfm [accessed November 2016]
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis Frequently Asked Questions. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/faqs.html [accessed November 2016]
  8. New South Wales Government Health. Whooping cough (Pertussis) fact sheet. Available from: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/pertussis.aspx [accessed November 2016]

WHOOPING COUGH QUIZ

Q1 of 10

Which of the following explains how you can catch whooping cough?

Hear what whooping cough sounds like

The ‘Whoop’ is the loud gasp babies make as they struggle to breathe in through the narrowed airway passages in between cough spasms.



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