Vaccinations & travel medicine

Vaccination against pertussis (whooping cough)

What is pertussis?

Whooping cough is hidden behind this. This is an infectious disease that is triggered by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. The bacterium is spread worldwide and can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing or when speaking, i.e. through droplets. The bacteria are very easily passed on and the probability that a sick person will infect all other unprotected family members is almost 100 percent.

Adults with whooping cough usually suffer from unspecific cough for weeks, on average six to seven weeks. However, they can also become severely ill. Complications occur in around a quarter of cases (e.g. weight loss, hernias and rib fractures, pneumonia or middle ear infection, incontinence, and more rarely cerebral haemorrhages). About one to four percent of all adult patients have to be treated in hospital, and these are mostly elderly people.

Deaths from whooping cough are very rare in adulthood. For infants, however, whooping cough can pose a real threat. Pneumonia and middle ear infections occur, which have to be treated in hospital and are sometimes life-threatening. Since infection occurs mainly through close contacts (around 80 per cent of cases) without them being aware of it, it not only makes sense to vaccinate infants against whooping cough as early as possible, but parents and other caregivers should also be vaccinated before the child is born.

Who and when should be vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough)?

This vaccination is relevant for every age group. Especially for infants, pregnant women and close contacts of infants.

Normally, the basic immunisation takes place in childhood. However, you can have it at any time; one vaccination is sufficient in adulthood.
In adulthood, tetanus and diphtheria should be vaccinated once in combination with the next due booster. A single vaccine against whooping cough is not available.

The Permanent Vaccination Commission (STIKO) recommends vaccination above all for all women who wish to have children as well as close contacts of infants (siblings, grandparents, babysitters, etc.) in order to prevent a risk to the newborn. If you are pregnant, you should be vaccinated against whooping cough in the last third of your pregnancy. The mother's antibodies against the disease are passed on to the child (nest protection). Of course, the vaccination also protects the mother.

How is vaccination against pertussis carried out and what must be observed?

The pertussis vaccination is an inactivated vaccine and is usually given as a combination vaccination. The vaccination is given into your upper arm muscle.

The vaccination is well tolerated. Very often, the stimulation of the body's own defences causes redness or swelling at the injection site, which may also hurt. Rarely, general symptoms such as an increase in temperature, chills, fatigue, muscle aches or gastrointestinal complaints may occur in the first three days after vaccination. Such vaccination reactions usually subside after one to three days.

What should I do next?

To check whether you have been vaccinated, simply make an appointment for a vaccination status check at one of our Avi Medical practices and talk to our medical team. They will advise you in detail whether you are already protected or whether you should receive a vaccination. The doctors will also check whether there are other vaccinations that would be useful for you and will carry these out directly if necessary.