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How is whooping cough spread?

Page last updated 03 July 2018

Whooping cough is typically spread from person to person through tiny droplets in the air containing the bacteria. These droplets are created by coughing or sneezing. You can also get infected from other forms of close contact with an infected person, like kissing or sharing food.

Symptoms of whooping cough generally appear between 7 and 10 days after infection, and infected people are most contagious up to about 2 weeks after the cough begins.

    Did you know?

    • If you introduce whooping cough to a household, non-immune members of the household have an 80% chance of getting the infection
    • If you’re infected with whooping cough, it’s estimated that on average you’ll pass it on to 5 unvaccinated people

    Sources & Citations

    1. NHMRC. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. 2013; 10th edition: Pertussis: 302 – 316. Available at:
    2. Australian Government Department of Health, Immunise Australia Program: Pertussis (Whooping Cough). Available at:
    3. Kretzschmar M et al. PLoS Med 2010;7(6):e1000291. Available at:

    SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0136a - Date of preparation May 2018