Pertussis high in Sutherland Shire: advice from the Public Health Unit

2 February 2017

Whilst notified cases of pertussis (whooping cough) are generally falling in NSW, cases among Sutherland Shire residents appear to be bucking the trend, with rates in the Shire in December and January 2-4 times higher than in other LGAs. Rates are high in under-5s (often in childcare) and in school children, but pertussis affects all ages.

General practitioners are reminded of the following points:
  1. Suspect pertussis in patients presenting with a cough (or with URTI symptoms alone IF there is a history of contact with pertussis);
  2. Mild illness may occur in vaccinated patients;
  3. Test: if seen within 3-4 weeks of onset of cough, request pertussis PCR, and after that time, request serology;
  4. Do not test asymptomatic patients or contacts;
  5. Isolate patients suspected of acute infectious illness, do not leave them in the waiting room.
  6. Treatment & Prophylaxis: use azithromycin, clarithromycin or co-trimoxazole, as erythromycin is no longer recommended.

Public health efforts are to prevent disease in infants and pregnant women. If your patient with suspected pertussis is in one of these groups, or has close or work contact with infants or pregnant women, please phone the Public Health Unit on 9382 8333, menu 2, (after hours ring the switchboard on 9382 2222) and ask for a member of the Infectious Diseases Team.

Prof Mark Ferson, Director, Public Health Unit, SESLHD