Pertussis (Whooping Cough) is a prolonged coughing illness and is highly infectious. It may be spread from person to person by close contact, usually by respiratory droplet.
The incubation period is 4 to 21 days usually 7-10 days. A patient is infectious from onset of symptoms and considered non-infectious at 3 weeks from onset of cough or following completion of 5 days of a course of an appropriate antibiotic.
Prophylaxis for contacts
Close contacts are family and household members, people who stayed overnight in the same room as the case and people with face-to-face exposure (within 1 metre) to an infectious case for at least 1 hour.
There is little evidence that antibiotic prophylaxis reduces secondary transmission outside of household settings.
Therefore, antibiotic prophylaxis should be limited to high risk contacts, at risk of severe complications i.e.
- infants under 12 months of age, regardless of vaccination status
- any child aged between 12 and 24 months who has received less than 3 doses of pertussis vaccine
- any women in the last month of pregnancy
- any child or adult who attends or works at a childcare facility, or who has significant contact with infants under 12 months of age.
Exclusion of cases and contacts
Cases must be excluded from primary schools and children’s services centres for 21 days after the onset of cough or until they have completed five days of antibiotic treatment. If cases have been coughing for longer than 21days exclusion is no longer required.
If the patient has already been infected, then vaccination will not prevent illness. However, complete vaccination remains the most important preventive measure for pertussis control. Please check the immunisation status of all children and catch-up any missed doses. The routine recommended schedule for pertussis vaccination is at two (from six weeks of age), four, and six months, four years of age (from 3.5 years of age) and at 12-16 years of age in 2015. From 2016 it will be recommended for 12-13 year olds.
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