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Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough illustration

What is whooping cough (pertussis)?

Travellers around the world should watch out for this menacing microbe that affects the lungs and airways. Following initial cold-like symptoms, it causes cough bouts which can last for several months and may leave you gasping for breath.

Whooping Cough illustration

Risk areas for Whooping Cough

Map of risk areas for Whooping Cough
  • Key fact

    Of the babies who catch whooping cough before they’re a year old, around a third will need time in hospital.2

  • How do you get whooping cough?

    By breathing in droplets spread by the coughs and sneezes of people infected with the bacteria that cause whooping cough.2

  • Which countries are affected by whooping cough?

    Cases of whooping cough can occur all over the world.3

  • What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

    Symptoms usually develop within 5-10 days and start with sneezes, runny nose, sore throat and rarely fever.1,2 After a week or so, bouts of uncontrollable coughing lasting several minutes can occur. Coughing may be severe enough to cause vomiting. Sometimes people find it difficult to breathe between coughing bouts and their gasping for breath causes the characteristic “whooping” noise.1 It can take a few months before the coughing stops.2

  • How serious is whooping cough?

    Children under 6 months are particularly at risk of complications such as dehydration, breathing difficulties, pneumonia and fits. Emergency treatment may be required.1

  • Can I prevent getting whooping cough?

    You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection:

    • Visit your GP, the nearest convenient pharmacy or specialist travel health clinic for more information.
    • Practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of bacteria.2
    • Pregnant women are advised to have the whooping cough vaccine. This protects babies during their first weeks of life.1

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  1. NHS. Conditions. Whooping cough. March 2023. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis (Whooping Cough). About Pertussis. August 2022. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)
  3. World Health Organization. Global Health Observatory data repository. Pertussis Reported cases by country. July 2022. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)

UK-BOTB-2100018 (v2.0) May 2023