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How is whooping cough spread?

Page last updated 12 May 2020

Whooping cough is typically spread from person to person through tiny droplets in the air containing the bacteria. These droplets are created by coughing or sneezing. You can also get infected from other forms of close contact with an infected person, like kissing or sharing food.

Symptoms of whooping cough generally appear between 7 and 10 days after infection, and infected people are most contagious up to about 2 weeks after the cough begins.

    Did you know?

    • If you introduce whooping cough to a household, non-immune members of the household have an 90% chance of getting the infection
    • Whooping cough is one of the most contagious viral diseases in the world, as contagious as the measles and more contagious than chicken pox.

    Sources & Citations

    3. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. Pertussis (whooping cough). Available at: (accessed 25 March 2020).

    5. Australian Government. Department of Health. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. Number of notifications of Pertussis*, Australia, 2013 by age group and sex. Available at: (accessed 25 March 2020).

    6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis Causes and Transmission. Available at: (accessed 25 March).

    7. The Geography of Transport Systems. Basic Reproduction Number (R0) of Major Infectious Diseases. Available at: [accessed 05 May 2020].

    SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0136(1)a - Date of preparation May 2020