Whooping cough (Pertussis) is a highly contagious infection of
the respiratory (breathing) tract, caused by the bacterium
Whooping cough can affect all ages, but infants less than 6
months of age are at the greatest risk. The illness is
characterised by repeated attacks of coughing followed by a 'whoop'
when inhaling. However, the 'whoop' is not always present in young
infants, older children and adults. Complications of whooping
cough include pneumonia (lung infection) which is the most common
cause of death, sometimes compounded by seizures and lack of oxygen
to the brain.
In Australia, whooping cough outbreaks occur every 3 to 4 years.
A person's immunity to whooping cough after infection or
immunisation decreases over time, placing them at risk of
infection. Consequently, adults and adolescents can be a source of
whooping cough infection for young babies.
The content of this website is currently under review.
General vaccination recommendations listed on this site may not
fully reflect the most recent advice in the 10th Edition of the
Australian Immunisation Handbook, which was released in April 2013.
Please speak to your healthcare professional for individual