Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Whooping cough outbreaks can occur in a community at any time of year but are more likely in autumn and winter during cold and flu season. To prevent any outbreak, it is important to be vaccinated – whooping cough vaccination.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease. Symptoms that include fever and long periods of coughing that sound like a ‘whoop’. Whooping cough can affect people of all ages but it is most serious in babies under the age of 12 months, particularly in the first few months.
Whooping cough symptoms include:
- blocked or runny nose
- raised temperature
- uncontrolled bouts of coughing that sounds like a ‘whoop’ or are followed by a ‘whooping’ noise
- vomiting after coughing.
Symptoms usually start about 7 to 10 days after catching whooping cough, with a cold, blocked or runny nose, coughing and a mild fever.
Whooping cough is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. It spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and you breathe it in. The bacteria infect the lining of the airways, mainly the windpipe (trachea) and the 2 airways that branch off from it to the lungs (the bronchi). There is a build-up of thick mucus. This mucus causes the intense bouts of coughing as the body tries to cough it up. The bacteria also cause the airways to swell up, making them narrower than usual. As a result, breathing is made difficult, which causes the ‘whoop’ sound as the person gasps for breath after a bout of coughing.
Whooping cough can be prevented with vaccination. Treatment includes antibiotics.
If you have close contact with someone who has whooping cough, your doctor may give you antibiotics to prevent you getting infected.
Whooping cough is a serious disease because it can lead to pneumonia, brain damage and sometimes death.
See your doctor as soon as possible if you think you or your child may have whooping cough.
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