Preparing for pertussis in Somerset; what to look out for, how to safeguard residents, patients and colleagues

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a serious and contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways which is spread easily through coughs, sneezes and close contact.

It is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases in the United Kingdom and it is an extremely serious infection in young babies.

There are currently high rates of pertussis circulating within the UK. You can protect your baby from this potentially devastating infection by getting yourself vaccinated in pregnancy and by making sure that your baby has their infant vaccines on time (8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age).

Signs and Symptoms: 

The first signs of whooping cough are similar to a cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat (a high temperature is uncommon).

After about a week, you or your child:

  • will get coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are worse at night
  • may make a "whoop" sound – a gasp for breath between coughs (young babies and some adults may not "whoop")
  • may have difficulty breathing after a coughing bout and may turn blue or grey (young infants)
  • may bring up a thick mucus, which can make you vomit
  • may become very red in the face (more common in adults)

The cough may last for several weeks or months.

Incubation period:

The incubation period is 7 to 10 days from exposure to onset of symptoms but can range from 5 to 21 days in some individuals.

Infectious period:

From onset of symptoms:

  1. Until 48 hours after appropriate antibiotic treatment completed
  2. up to 21 days from onset of symptoms dependent on:
    •Antibiotic therapy

    •Risk factors

    •Risk assessment and discussion with UKHSA/IPM or HP teams.

Stay off school, work or nursery until 48 hours after starting antibiotics, or 3 weeks after your symptoms started if you've not had antibiotics.

Reporting suspected cases or identified contacts

Please report all suspected cases or identified contacts to United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) via Tel. 0300 303 8162 ensuring you have all the necessary patient details.