Infected family members may unknowingly pass Whooping Cough on to a new baby.
Babies in their first months of life are at greatest risk from whooping cough.
Newborns are especially vulnerable to infection until they have completed their full three dose course of whooping cough vaccines at 6 months of age.
Adult whooping cough vaccination is recommended to help control whooping cough, particularly in infants too young to be fully vaccinated.
How is whooping cough spread?
Whooping Cough is a respiratory infection with an incubation period of 7 – 20 days. In unvaccinated persons, whooping cough is highly infectious. Natural infection does not provide long term protection and repeat infection can occur.
Babies commonly catch whooping cough from household family members and carers, including their mother, father, grandparents or a sibling who has the infection.
Infected household family members may pass whooping cough on to a new baby without realising it, because the symptoms of the disease can be non-specific in older children and adults.
Even if you were vaccinated against whooping cough as a child or have previously been infected, protection is not life-long, and may wear off over time, so you could get it again.
Talk to your doctor about whopping cough booster vaccinations for you and other members of your family to help protect your new baby.
Symptoms of whooping cough
Whooping cough usually begins with an irritating cough, which gradually develops into repeated bouts of coughing. In infants especially, this can be followed by a characteristic ‘whoop’ and difficulty inhaling. Coughing can last for 1 – 2 months or longer.
Symptoms in babies can be serious and sometimes life-threatening.
Complications of whooping cough in infants include:
- brain damage (by lack of oxygen to the brain)
These complications can lead to hospitalisation and, in rare cases, death.
Diagnosis of whooping cough
Whooping cough should be diagnosed and treated immediately. There are a number of tests for whooping cough, but they are not always reliable and the results may take some time. Treatment should not be withheld while waiting for these results.
Tests used to diagnose whooping cough may include:
- medical history including immunisation status
- physical examination
- blood tests
- swabs of the nose and throat for laboratory testing.
Immunisation against whooping cough
In Victoria, the whooping cough vaccine is only available in a number of combined vaccines that also contain protection against other serious and potentially fatal diseases. The type of combined vaccine used for immunisation will depend on the person’s age group. Children need to follow the full schedule of vaccines to be fully protected.
In Victoria, immunisation against whooping cough is free for:
- children at two (from six weeks), four and six months of age – in the form of a diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine (six-in-one vaccine)
- children at four years of age – in the form of a diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio vaccine (four-in-one vaccine)
- adolescents in secondary school (or age equivalent) – adolescents receive a booster dose of diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccine (three-in-one vaccine). The dose can also be given by a doctor or at a council community immunisation session
- pregnant women from 28 weeks gestation during every pregnancy
- partners of women who are at least 28 weeks pregnant if the partner has not received a pertussis booster in the last ten years
- parents or guardians of babies born on or after 1 June 2015, if their baby is under six months of age and they have not received a pertussis booster in the last ten years
- children up to and including nine years – catch-up immunisations are available for children who have not been fully vaccinated
- vulnerable eligible people aged ten years and over – catch-up immunisations are available for people who have not been fully vaccinated.
If you are not sure whether you are eligible for a free immunisation against whooping cough, please talk to your doctor.
Central Clinic provide immunisations to all eligible people as part of the free government program.
All other people who meet the recommended guidelines for the whooping cough vaccination can purchase the whooping cough vaccine at Central Clinic or obtain a private prescription from their GP.
It is highly recommended due to the increased morbidity associated with whooping cough in the elderly, adults aged 65years and over should be offered a single whooping cough booster if they have not received one in the previous 10 years.
If you would like further information, please contact Central Clinic for further details on 56 223377 or 56 255044.