Misconception

Fact

All cases of whooping cough are associated with whoop or post-tussive vomiting

Many cases in older children and adults only have a mild persistent cough, especially if there is a history of previous whooping cough or the person is fully immunised for age. Patients often report a cough that is worse at night.

Whooping cough is a childhood disease

Whooping cough affects all age groups. Because it is often a mild coughing illness, it is often overlooked. A significant source of the infection in infants is from an infected parent.

It can't be whooping cough if the person is immunised or has had whooping cough

As protection from infection and vaccination wanes over time, fully immunised people can still have whooping cough. Modern acellular vaccines are much safer than the old fashioned whole cell vaccines but they are only 85% effective in preventing typical whooping cough, and between 71% and 78% effective in preventing mild pertussis.

Antibiotics treat the cough

Antibiotics only prevent whooping cough transmission (after 5 days of therapy). Antibiotics probably do not reduce the symptoms of whooping cough. Because the indication for antibiotics is during the first 3 weeks of illness when the person is infectious, there is little rationale for antibiotic treatment after this time.

Antibiotics are sometimes indicated to treat pneumonia caused by co-infections with non-pertussis bacterial pathogens.

GPs don't need to notify cases of whooping cough as cases are notified by the lab

Doctors are required to notify the local public health unit under the NSW Public Health Act once a clinical diagnosis has been made. The ideal way to report a case is by telephone.

Laboratories are also required to notify cases to the public health unit once a positive pertussis test result is returned.

Page Updated: Monday 29 April 2013
Contact page owner: Communicable Diseases