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Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

What should I know about whooping cough?

Whooping cough is a serious and highly infectious disease and is spread by direct contact with fluids from the nose or mouth of infected people.

Young children, especially babies under 12 months, and people with weak immune systems (immunocompromised) can become very ill and occasionally die from whooping cough.
Newborn babies are at very high risk, so pregnant women in their third trimester should see their doctor and get treatment if they get symptoms of whooping cough or have been exposed to a person with whooping cough.

80% of young children with whooping cough catch it from a parent, caregiver or older child in the family.

What are the symptoms?

Whooping cough begins with a runny nose, fever and a dry cough, which develops into long coughing attacks.
In babies and young children, coughing attacks often end with a ‘whoop’ sound when breathing in, or with vomiting or gagging. Babies can have trouble feeding or breathing.

How can the spread of Pertussis be prevented?

On-time immunisation is the best prevention for babies and children

  • Whooping Cough immunisations are given at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months, with boosters at four years and 11 years.
  • See your GP if your children need to catch-up their immunisations.
  • A whooping cough booster immunisation is recommended for pregnant women between 28-38 weeks gestation. This booster can reduce the risk the mother will have the disease when the baby is born and for the subsequent year when the baby's risk of complications from whooping cough is highest.  See your GP for more information. 
Staying home: Children and adults will be required to stay home until they have had at least 5 days of a course of antibiotics or for up to three weeks (if they don’t take antibiotics) if they are:
  • Diagnosed with whooping cough
  • Not fully immunised and have been in contact with someone with whooping cough

What does the Public Health Service do?

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) receives notification of all cases of pertussis and provides advice to prevent the spread of this illness.If you have any concerns please contact Auckland Regional Public Health Service on (09) 623 4600 or speak to your GP. Immunisation can be discussed with the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) on 0800 IMMUNE.


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