Whooping cough vaccination: essential to help protect the precious babies around you

Pertussis, or whooping cough, as it’s more commonly known, is an acute infection with potentially devastating consequences.

Adults are just as susceptible to contracting the disease as children, but with their immune systems still developing, babies under six months old are at much greater risk of complications arising from the illness. 

Babies under 6 months of age are at risk of dying if they contract whooping cough. This is why recommendations are for all pregnant women to have this vaccine at 28 weeks each pregnancy.  This means that immunity will develop before the baby is born. Adults over the age of 65 years are also at risk of dying from pertussis or being admitted to hospital if they contract it.

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2008, 16 million cases of whooping cough were diagnosed globally which resulted in 195,000 deaths.  While 95% of those cases were in developing countries, 5% of those infant deaths were in fully developed countries which had access to the preventative whooping cough vaccination which means that they could have been avoided.

How does whooping cough spread?

Whooping cough is extremely contagious and is contracted when a carrier coughs, sneezes or talks near you. The infection is transferred through the air by infection droplets which are invisible to the human eye.

The incubation period for whooping cough is from as little as 4 to as many as 21 days so symptoms might not display themselves before unavoidable human contact takes place. This could be a family member, colleague, or someone who walks past you in the shopping mall; whooping cough is non-discriminatory.

Not only is it an airborne disease, but infection can also take place by direct touch or by coming into contact with an infected object (such as a handkerchief).

Whooping cough symptoms

Symptoms of whooping cough start out just like the common cold with a runny nose, fever and persistent feeling of being unwell.

A cough generally begins three to seven days later, and it can last for months. Whooping cough also has the nickname ‘the hundred-day cough’ which indicates the severity of those persistent symptoms.

The intensity of whooping cough is much more than the type of cough which accompanies the common cold. Not only is it longer in duration, but it also comes in prolonged fits which are often followed by shortness of breath and vomiting.

It’s possible to make a full recovery from whooping cough, but complications include pneumonia, hernias, brain bleeding, brain damage from lack of oxygen and death.

Fortunately, the whooping cough vaccine is part of the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule, so contraction is easily avoided.

Whooping Cough Treatment

The best treatment for whooping cough is a course of prescribed antibiotics. Not only should the patient take the antibiotics, but everyone who comes into contact with the the child or person infected should also schedule an appointment with their doctor to arrange treatment as a preventative measure.

Antibiotics will reduce the effects of the illness but because whooping cough is so highly contagious, prevention is a much safer recommendation than cure.

Prevention of Whooping Cough

Quarantine

A carrier is most contagious within the first 21 days of contracting whooping cough, so it’s important that any sufferers, where possible, avoid contact with others during this highly infectious time. Unfortunately, with carriers not showing symptoms for up to four days, the illness is virtually impossible to contain.

Vaccination

Pertussis, or the whooping cough vaccine is included in the National Childhood Immunisation Program and is administered as a combination with the diphtheria and tetanus immunisation (DTaP vaccine).

To ensure protection against whooping cough, the vaccine to prevent Pertussis is funded in full by the Queensland government. The schedule from Queensland Health is recommended in four stages as follows:

  • Babies aged two months, four months, and six-months-old (can be given from 6 weeks old)
  • Toddlers aged 18 months
  • Children aged four-years-old (anytime from three years and six months)
  • Year 7 booster administered as part of the school immunisation program
  • And pregnant women with each pregnancy

Following this schedule will increase the protection against the disease with each whooping cough vaccination that’s administered.

Who else should have the vaccine?

It’s not just babies who should receive the whooping cough vaccination. Like immunisation against any illness, protection doesn’t last a lifetime, so it’s important that the following groups are fully immunised too:

Pregnant women and mothers

If you’re in the third trimester of your pregnancy, the whooping cough vaccination (or Pertussis vaccination) is fully-funded by the Queensland government. It’s recommended that this is most effective when administered between 28 and 32 weeks’ gestation, but it’s safe for mother and baby anytime from 28 weeks up until delivery.

Because the baby can’t be directly immunised until they’re six-weeks-old, this boost given through the mother will offer a level of protection to the infant until such a point that they’re strong enough to receive their own whooping cough vaccination.

If a pregnant woman fails to have the whooping cough booster during her pregnancy, she forgoes her right to have this funded by the Queensland government, but it’s still highly recommended that she has it once the baby is born to remove the risk of passing the disease onto the child before they’re fully immunised.

Adults who have contact with a baby that hasn’t yet been immunised

The effects of whooping cough can be extremely severe, and because of how easily it’s contracted, any adult who comes into contact with a newborn before they are immunised should receive a whooping cough booster.  Fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends and caregivers are all responsible for making sure they’re fully immunised against whooping cough at least two weeks before they meet a newborn.

Working carers

Anyone working in a childcare facility or caring for infants such as nurses, kindergarten teachers and nursery staff must have a whooping cough booster vaccine every ten years. This isn’t funded by the government but is still a responsibility for anyone working around children.

Whooping cough is a severe illness that can have devastating consequences for both children and adults. If you haven’t received a booster in the past ten years, or your children are not vaccinated, it’s important that you rectify this to avoid contracting this potentially life-threatening illness and passing it on.

Anyone who is having a tetanus immunisation

Anyone having a tetanus vaccination should consider the whooping cough vaccine too. Adults at 50 should have a tetanus booster and it is recommended this be given as a combination vaccination with pertussis. Whooping cough can last 100 days and cause rib fractures.

Adults over 65

Adults over 65 should get the pertussis vaccine as there is new evidence that adults at this age and older are at increased risk of admissions to hospital, pneumonia and even death from whooping cough.

Whooping Cough Vaccine Cost

There is a payable fee not covered by Medicare for adults (except for pregnant women) but the whooping cough vaccination will protect you, your family and most importantly, tiny babies who aren’t strong enough to cope with the severity of the disease. It has the potential to save their life.

To arrange a whooping cough vaccine, Gold Coast residents, call us today!

Phone our Robina Practice to make an appointment on 5578 9000, or contact Easy T Practice on 5503 6333.