Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Travellers around the world should watch out for this menacing microbe. It causes a cough which lasts for several months, with intense bouts of coughing which leave you gasping for breath.

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Key Facts around Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Of the babies who catch whooping cough before they’re a year old, around half will need time in hospital.1


  • How do people catch this disease?

    By breathing in tiny droplets spread by the coughs and sneezes of people infected with the bacteria that cause whooping cough.3,4

  • Which countries are affected?

    Cases of whooping cough occur all over the world but around 95% are in developing countries.3

  • What are the symptoms?

    Initially mild fever, sniffles and dry irritating cough. Bouts of uncontrollable coughing lasting several minutes occur as the disease develops. Coughing may be severe enough to cause vomiting. Sometimes people find it difficult to breathe between coughing bouts and their gasping for breath causes the characteristic “whooping” noise.3,4

  • How serious is the disease?

    Children under 6 months are particularly at risk of complications such as pneumonia, fits and kidney damage. If breathing is interrupted there’s a risk of brain damage. The disease can be fatal with babies, though deaths are rare (1%).3,4

  • Can I reduce the chances of catching the disease?

    You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection:

    • Visit a travel health clinic to assess the risks of the planned trip and get advice about available vaccinations and further precautions.
      Click here to find your nearest travel health clinic and make an appointment: https://www.reisemedizincheck.at/en/find-a-travel-health-service
    • Pregnant women are advised to have the whooping cough vaccine. This protects babies during their first weeks of life.4
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis (Whooping Cough). About Pertussis. Signs and Symptoms. Available online: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/signs-symptoms.html (Last accessed September 2020)
  2. 2. World Health Organization. Immunization Monitoring Pertussis reported cases. July 2020. Available online: http://apps.who.int/immunization_monitoring/globalsummary/timeseries/tsincidencepertussis.html (Last accessed September 2020)
  3. 3. Gesundheit.gv.at. Keuchhusten bei Kindern. Available online: https://www.gesundheit.gv.at/krankheiten/kinderkrankheiten/infektion/keuchhusten (last accessed September 2020)
  4. 4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Book 2020. Chapter 4. Travel-Related Infectious Diseases. Pertussis. Available online: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travel-related-infectious-diseases/pertussis (last accessed September 2020)

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