Pertussis is a bacterial infection spread by airborne respiratory droplets or through direct contact with respiratory secretions. In infants it causes a severe (life threatening) illness, especially if contracted in the first few months of life when they are incompletely vaccinated. The disease is most often transmitted to infants by close contacts – parents, grandparents or other carers. Pertussis is characterised by a barking cough or whoop which may last for several weeks.
Despite good whooping cough vaccination coverage in Australia, there are regular outbreaks of whooping cough every three to four years. Tens of thousands of people per year may be affected, but no-one knows the real number as many are not officially diagnosed.
Travellers are at risk of contracting the disease just as much as anyone and we strongly encourage travellers be up to date with vaccination for their own protection and for the protection of others (especially newborns they may come into contact with).