The Office of the Chief Medical Officer said they “identified a case of whooping cough [also known as pertussis] in a workplace setting” and added that this “potentially means that there is circulating pertussis in the community.”
A Government spokesperson said, “Pertussis is a highly contagious illness and is usually spread by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others. Indirect spread through the air or contaminated objects is rare. Unlike the common cold, exposure to pertussis bacteria can be very dangerous and lead to severe illness [and, in rare cases, death] in young children or people with a weakened immune system.
“The first signs of whooping cough are like a common cold. After about a week, you or your child:
- “Will get coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are worse at night
- “Will make a “whoop” sound – a gasp for breath between coughs [young babies and some adults may not “whoop”]
- “May bring up thick mucus, which can make you sick [vomit]
- “May become very red in the face [more common in adults]
“Although the current risk to the community remains low, the Chief Medical Officer strongly advises anyone with the above symptoms to consult their GP. Babies under 6 months are at an increased risk of developing problems such as dehydration, breathing difficulties, pneumonia or fits.
“Call 911 or go to the Emergency Department immediately if:
- “Your child has periods of stopping breathing, and their face or lips go blue [cyanosis]
- “You or your child are finding it hard to breathe properly [shallow breathing]
- “You or your child have chest pain that’s worse when breathing or coughing – this could be a sign of pneumonia
- “Your child is having fits
“You should see a GP urgently or call 911 if:
- “Your baby is under 6 months old and has symptoms of whooping cough
- “You or your child have a very bad cough that is getting worse
- “You’ve been in contact with someone with whooping cough, and you’re pregnant
- “You or your child has been in contact with someone with whooping cough and have a weakened immune system
“Whooping cough can spread very easily. It’s best to call the GP before you go in. They might suggest talking over the phone.
“If your GP suspects whooping cough, you may have a swab or other test taken, and you may be prescribed antibiotics to help stop it from spreading to others. Antibiotics may not reduce symptoms. You can relieve the symptoms of whooping cough by getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, and taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve discomfort. Always check doses of paracetamol or ibuprofen with a GP or pharmacist before giving them to a child aged under 16.
Whooping cough is contagious!
“If you have whooping cough, you will be contagious from about 6 days after the start of cold-like symptoms to 3 weeks after coughing starts. If you start antibiotics within 3 weeks of starting to cough, it will reduce your contagious time.
“Your healthcare provider is required by law to notify the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit [ESU] about any cases of whooping cough. If diagnosed, you may receive a call from an ESU nurse to try to prevent further spread. Please be reassured that any details you provide to the ESU nurse will be treated as medical in confidence.
How to prevent whooping cough
“Fortunately, pertussis is preventable with vaccination, and the appropriate public health response to a case is to identify the contacts’ immunisation status and offer care and vaccination to those who need it.
“You can reduce the risk of catching whooping cough by taking respiratory hygiene precautions, as with any other respiratory infection such as flu, Covid or RSV. As the Minister of Health recently advised, “Remember to avoid the ‘Three Cs’: close contact, crowded spaces and confined places with poor ventilation”.
“So keep your house and workplaces well-ventilated, regularly wash your hands and be vigilant when in crowded spaces. Please cover your cough to stop the spread of respiratory infections!
“ A Pertussis factsheet can be found here.”