| Information from CDC
Whooping cough (Pertussis)
bacterial infection of the nose and throat caused by Bordetella
Pertussis is a highly contagious
bacterial infection that causes coughing and gagging with little or
no fever. An infected person has cough episodes that may end in
vomiting or cause a "whoop" sound when the person tries to breathe
Symptoms appear between 6 to 21 days (average 7-10) after exposure
to the bacteria.
disease starts with cold symptoms: runny nose and cough. Sometime
in the first 2 weeks, episodes of severe cough develop and that
can last 1 to 2 months. The person may look and feel fairly
healthy between these episodes.
bouts of cough, the lips and nails may turn blue for lack of air.
Vomiting may occur after severe coughing spells.
the severe coughing stage, seizures or even death can occur,
particularly in an infant.
Infants less than 3 months of age may not cough; they may simply
Immunized school children and adults have milder symptoms than
and older children may not develop a typical whoop or vomit after
coughing. Whooping cough is particularly serious in children under
two years of age and hospitalisation is usually necessary.
- Pertussis is most
dangerous to children less than 1 year old. Complications for
infants include pneumonia, convulsions, and in rare cases brain
damage or death.
complications are less likely in older children and adults.
Diagnosis is made by clinical examination, a blood test and sampling
mucus from the nose and throat.
Whooping cough is spread by direct mucous membrane (lining of nose and
throat) contact with infected droplets from the nose and throat produced
by coughing and sneezing.
7-10 days and rarely more than 14 days.
infectious when the ‘cold-like’ symptoms occur in the early stages.
Without treatment, a person is infectious for the first three weeks of
coughing. With appropriate antibiotic therapy, the person is no longer
infectious to others five days after starting antibiotics.
Control of spread
Timely immunisation of babies and children under 8 years of age with 5
doses of the combined pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus vaccine
provides the best protection against whooping cough. However, the
protection provided by the vaccine decreases with age and previously
immunised older children and adults are at risk of infection.
Treatment of the person with whooping cough and their household
contacts will reduce the spread of the infection. It is important that
anyone with suspicious symptoms see their doctor so that an accurate
diagnosis can be made and treatment commenced, if necessary.
person with whooping cough should be excluded from child care,
preschool, school or work until 5 days after starting antibiotic
treatment or if not treated, for 3 weeks from the start of symptoms.
Unimmunised contacts aged under 7 years should be excluded from child
care, preschool and school for 14 days after the last exposure to
infection or until they have been on antibiotic treatment for at least
child care, preschool, school or work contacts of a person with
whooping cough should seek medical advice if they develop any
case of a whooping cough epidemic the guidelines for control of spread
will change. The Department of Health Human Services should be contacted
- The vaccination against pertussis is
included in the DTP and DTaP vaccines. Before age 7, children should
get 5 doses of the DTP or DTaP vaccine. These are usually given at 2,
4, 6, and 15-18 months* of age and 4 - 6 years of age. *This 4th
dose may be given as early as 12 months of age.
Appropriate antibiotic therapy, given in the early stages of
infection, may prevent or lessen the severity of symptoms.
- If you live with someone who has
pertussis or are in the same child care classroom with someone who has
had pertussis, you should take preventive antibiotics.