Increasing Pertussis Notifications in Queensland

Increasing Pertussis Notifications in Queensland

We are currently experiencing an increase in notifications of pertussis across Queensland. Despite routine pertussis vaccination on the National Immunisation Program (NIP), pertussis is still common in Australia with outbreaks experienced every few years.

Infants under 6 months of age are at particular risk of severe disease. Immunity wanes over time, so even vaccinated people can get and transmit pertussis, although the disease is usually less severe.
Queensland Health recommends the following to help reduce the risk of serious pertussis cases occurring in the Queensland community.

Vaccinate pregnant women in each pregnancy to protect babies
Available free on the NIP. Vaccinate even when pregnancies are close together to offer protection for babies. The optimal time is 20–32 weeks gestation but may be given up until delivery.

Vaccinate infants and children
Available free on the NIP at ages 2, 4, 6, 18 months, and 4 years of age. A booster dose is recommended for adolescents in year 7 and is offered as part of the school immunisation program in Queensland.

Booster doses for adults caring for infants
A pertussis booster dose is recommended every 10 years for any adult who wants to reduce their risk of infection, particularly parents, grandparents, healthcare and childcare workers who are caring for babies under 6 months of age.

Early detection and treatment reduces transmission
For both children and adults, pertussis infection is best diagnosed acutely by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing on a nasopharyngeal swab. PCR is most sensitive in the first 3 weeks of illness.

Appropriate antibiotic treatment may not change the clinical course of pertussis infection but reduces the infectious period if commenced within 3 weeks of symptom onset. Cases are no longer considered infectious after completing 5 days of appropriate antibiotic treatment, or if 3 weeks have passed after symptom onset.

Keep patients who are infectious at home
People with pertussis should not attend work, school, preschool, or childcare while they are infectious. It is especially important for anyone who is infectious to avoid contact with infants and women in the late stages of pregnancy.

Identify and manage at-risk contacts
Some contacts of a confirmed pertussis case may require antibiotic prophylaxis to prevent disease. This includes infants under 6 months of age or people who may transmit pertussis to infants. Your local public health unit can help with the management of contacts when an infectious case of pertussis is identified.

Further testing, treatment and prophylaxis information is available at Pertussis (health.gov.au) and Topic | Therapeutic Guidelines (tg.org.au).

Further vaccination information is available at: National Immunisation Program schedule | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care and Pertussis (whooping cough) | The Australian Immunisation Handbook (health.gov.au).