Pertussis (Whooping Cough) increase seen in 2011 continues in 2012


Provisional data for the first 15 weeks of 2012 indicates that the high notification rate of pertussis, seen in the latter half of 2011, continues. This year to date, 77 cases of pertussis have been notified, of which 54 are laboratory confirmed. Most cases originate from the east and south of the country, with all areas affected.

The majority of cases 56% were less than five years of age; 44% less than one year of age, and 42% were aged 0-5 months. Among the 43 children less than five years of age, 32 were age eligible for pertussis vaccination; 13 of whom were unvaccinated.

In total, 33 (43%) were hospitalised, 82% of whom were less than one year of age.

The continuing high levels of pertussis transmission in the community are of concern, particularly in relation to severe disease requiring hospitalisation of young children. The completed three dose pertussis vaccination uptake in children at 24 months is currently 95% (Q4 2011).

Vaccination offers the best protection to young children. Parents are encouraged to ensure that their children are vaccinated with the pertussis vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. A fourth dose is recommended at 4-5 years. A further booster, using Tdap which contains low dose acellular pertussis vaccine, was introduced to the schools immunisation programme in the 2011/2012 academic year on a phased basis for first year students in second level schools and this should be extended to all areas from next September.

Pertussis vaccination should be considered for children aged less than 10 years who are exposed to pertussis, if they have received fewer than 4 doses of the vaccine. Children may be given dose four as early as 12 months of age, preferably 6 months after dose three.

People who have, or may have, pertussis should stay away from young children and infants until properly treated. Treatment of people who are close contacts of pertussis cases is also an important part of prevention.

Please see your GP if you think you or your child may have pertussis. Pertussis is a notifiable disease.

Pertussis graph 

CIDR data extracted on 13/04/2012. Data for 2012 is provisional.