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Whooping cough causes and diagnosis

2-minute read

Whooping cough is caused by Bordetella pertussis, a type of bacteria. It’s passed on through close personal contact, sneezing and coughing.

The bacterium infects the lining of the airways, mainly the windpipe (trachea) and the two airways that branch off from it to the lungs (the bronchi).

When the Bordetella pertussis bacterium comes into contact with the lining of these airways, it multiplies and causes a build-up of thick mucus. It's the mucus that causes the intense bouts of coughing as your body tries to cough it up.

The bacterium also causes the airways to swell up, making them narrower than usual. As a result, breathing is made difficult, which causes the 'whoop' sound as you gasp for breath after a bout of coughing.

Whooping cough diagnosis

See your doctor as soon as possible if you think you or your child may have whooping cough.

Your doctor may suspect whooping cough by asking about your or your child’s symptoms. They will confirm the diagnosis by taking a swab from the back of the nose or throat.

Some people may need a chest x-ray to see if they also have developed pneumonia.

Young babies

If a young baby has suspected whooping cough they need to be tested for it straight away, and if concerned your doctor may refer them to hospital. This is because the disease can be severe in babies.

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Last reviewed: March 2019


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Pertussis (whooping cough) | The Australian Immunisation Handbook

Information about pertussis (whooping cough) disease, vaccines and recommendations for vaccination from the Australian Immunisation Handbook

Read more on Department of Health website

Whooping cough (pertussis) | Australian Government Department of Health

Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease. Symptoms that include fever and long periods of coughing that sound like a whoop. Whooping cough can affect people of all ages but it is more serious for babies. Whooping cough can be prevented by immunisation. Treatment includes antibiotics.

Read more on Department of Health website

Pertussis vaccine | AusVaxSafety

  Pertussis vaccine safety Surveillance data   Pertussis vaccine safety Surveillance data   Pertussis vaccine safety Surveillance data   Pertussis vaccine safety Surveillance data   Pertussis vaccine safety Surveillance data ‹ › 18 month booster 4 year booster Pregnant women

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Pertussis - Lab Tests Online AU

When you have persistent, sharp spasms or fits of coughing (paroxysms) that the doctor suspects is due to pertussis (whooping cough) or when you have symptoms of a cold and have been exposed to someone with pertussisThis is a group of tests that are performed to detect and diagnose aBordetella pertussisinfection

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Whooping cough | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is whooping cough? Whooping cough is an infection caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis

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Immunisation Coalition | Whooping Cough - Immunisation Coalition

Whooping Cough (pertussis) is a highly infectious respiratory infection that when passed to infants can be life threatening.

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Whooping cough (pertussis) immunisation service | Australian Government Department of Health

Whooping cough vaccines are given as a needle and are only available as a combination vaccine. They can be provided by a variety of recognised immunisation providers. If you're eligible, you can get the whooping cough vaccine at no cost through the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

Read more on Department of Health website

Whooping cough overview - myDr.com.au

Whooping cough is a highly infectious disease that causes sudden attacks of coughing that often end in a high-pitched whooping sound. The cough commonly persists for up to 3 months.

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Whooping cough - Better Health Channel

The major symptom of whooping cough is a severe cough, which is often followed by a 'whooping' sound.

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Immunisation Coalition | Pregnancy - Immunisation Coalition

Immunisation during pregnancy is vital to protect the mother and unborn child. We recommend the mother and baby receive vaccines for whooping cough (pertussis) and influenza.

Read more on Immunisation Coalition website

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