There is an outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) in NSW, mainly affecting school-aged children.

Coughing spreads the infection to others nearby. Whooping cough can spread to anyone at home, including younger brothers and sisters. Whooping cough can be especially dangerous for babies.

Whooping cough starts like a cold and progresses to bouts of coughing that can last for many weeks. The infection can occur even in fully-vaccinated children. Older children may just have a cough that is persistent and may be worse at night.

  • Children with these symptoms should see a doctor.
  • If your doctor diagnoses whooping cough in your school-aged child, please let the school know and keep your child at home until they have taken 5 days of antibiotics. Keep coughing children away from babies.
  • Whooping cough vaccines give good protection against infection but immunity fades with time. Check that all your children are up to date with their vaccines, due at 6 weeks, 4 months, 6 months, 4 years and 12 years of age (offered to all Year 7 students through the NSW school-based vaccination program). A booster is also recommended at 18 months of age.

A booster dose of vaccine is also recommended for adults that are in contact with young children, such as school staff and parents.

Pregnant women are recommended to have a booster dose during each pregnancy and this is funded by NSW Health.

For more information on whooping cough vaccination please see vaccination during pregnancy

Those who are new parents or carers of babies should consult their general practitioner about appropriate immunisation.

Your local public health unit can provide advice about whooping cough on 1300 066 055

Please see Immunisation for vaccine information

Childcare and family day care

Immunisation helps protect everyone

  • Three whooping cough vaccines are given to babies followed by a booster dose once the child is older. See immunisation for more information.
  • Under the NSW Public Health Act childcare centres must maintain a register of the vaccination status of all children.
  • If a child is not up-to-date, remind parents or carers of the importance of vaccination. Parents can check with their GP or the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 if they are unsure.
  • An adult whooping cough booster is also recommended for all childcare workers to protect them from infection and passing it on to vulnerable children.

People with a new cough at your childcare centre

Any new cough could be whooping cough and the infection could spread.

  • Inform the centre's Director if a child develops symptoms.
  • Directors should inform the child’s parents and encourage them to take the child to a GP.
  • Childcare workers with a new cough should see a GP to rule out whooping cough before returning to work. This is especially important if the centre cares for babies. Childcare workers with a cough should not care for babies.

If a child or childcare worker is diagnosed with whooping cough

The director of the child care centre should call the Public Health Unit for further advice.

  • Antibiotics may sometimes be needed for children and childcare workers to prevent the infection spreading to babies.
  • Children with confirmed whooping cough should not be allowed to attend childcare while there is a danger of passing on the infection to others. Childcare workers with whooping cough are strongly advised to stay at home for the same reason.
  • People with whooping cough can spread it to others for up to 3 weeks. Antibiotics can shorten this period to 5 days.
  • Staying Healthy in Child Care provides further information about managing infectious diseases.

Schools

There has been a recent increase of whooping cough (pertussis) amongst primary-school-aged children and a modest increase in high schools.

Coughing spreads the infection to others nearby. Whooping cough caught at school can spread to any younger brothers and sisters at home. Whooping cough can be especially dangerous for babies.

Whooping cough starts like a cold and progresses to bouts of coughing that can last for many weeks. Older children may just have a cough that is persistent and is worse at night. The infection can occur even in fully-vaccinated children.

  • Children with symptoms should see a GP.
  • If your doctor diagnoses whooping cough, please let the school know and keep your child at home until they have taken 5 days of antibiotics. Keep coughing children away from babies.
  • Whooping cough vaccines give good protection against infection but immunity fades. If your school-aged child has younger siblings, it’s a good idea to check that they are up to date with their vaccines.

Public health units can provide advice to schools managing whooping cough outbreaks.

Also see information on the School Based Immunisation Program.

Page Updated: Wednesday 14 October 2015