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Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is an infection that occurs in the lungs and causes forceful coughing.

It is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can affect people of all ages, but is most severe in babies. The disease causes coughing spasms that can end in a high-pitched whooping sound as the child draws breath. It’s not a benign disease and can cause severe respiratory distress and death.

Australia, like other parts of the world, is experiencing an outbreak. It is known to run in cycles every three to four years and our last cycle was in 2019 according to Queensland’s acting Chief Health Officer Catherine McDougall on the ABC.

At the time of writing, there have been 3263 cases recorded in the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System. Cases are highest in Queensland (1412) and New South Wales (1303), followed by Victoria with 362 cases.

Vaccination rates are currently lower than they should be and parents are encouraged to vaccinate their children. In Australia, vaccination against whooping cough is recommended at age 2, 4, and 6 months as part of the National Immunisation Program Schedule. The 2-month dose can be given as early as 6 weeks of age.

Two booster doses are recommended – one at 18 months and one at age 4 years. An additional booster dose is recommended for adolescents between 11 and 13 years. This booster can be given as part of a school-based vaccination program.  Pregnant women should be vaccinated to protect themselves and their babies once born.

Pertussis vaccination for eligible people is funded under the National Immunisation Program and by states and territories.


Further information

National Immunisation Program Schedule: Department of Health 

Whooping cough overview:

National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System

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