Pertussis (whooping cough)

1 Summary

  • From 01 January 2024 to 12 May, 1157 clinically suspected pertussis cases have been notified to the Public Health Agency.
  • Of those notified during 2024 to 12 May, 916 were laboratory confirmed.

2 Background

Pertussis (also known as “whooping cough”) is a highly contagious but vaccine preventable bacterial respiratory disease that is usually caused by Bordetella pertussis. It is normally characterised by a “whooping” cough, cold and fever. For more information about pertussis, please visit NI Direct | Pertussis. Pertussis typically follows a cyclical pattern with epidemics occurring every three to five years. For more information about previous years’ reports, please visit PHA | Annual VPD Reports.

A vaccine against pertussis, which also provides protection against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B (DTap/IPV/Hib/HepB vaccine) is included in the Northern Ireland childhood vaccination schedule at age two, three, and four months. A further booster against pertussis (also protecting against diphtheria, tetanus and polio) is provided three years after the primary course and before school entry. Vaccination against pertussis can also be offered prenatally (to pregnant women) ideally from 16 weeks up to 32 weeks pregnant.

For more information on the childhood immunisation programme, please visit NI Direct | Childhood immunisation programme and for further information on pertussis vaccination for pregnant women, please visit NI Direct | Whooping cough vaccination for pregnant women.

Details of case definitions and methods are at the end of this document. Data were correct at 12 May 2024.

3 Pertussis notifications, 2019-2024

The number of notified clinically suspected pertussis cases from the start of 2019 until the report date are shown (Table 3.1).

Table 3.1: Counts of pertussis notifications, 2019-2024.
  2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
  (N=203) (N=45) (N=1) (N=8) (N=6) (N=1157)
Case category            
Confirmed 182 (89.7%) 39 (86.7%) 0 (0%) 2 (25.0%) 0 (0%) 916 (79.2%)
Probable 21 (10.3%) 6 (13.3%) 1 (100%) 6 (75.0%) 6 (100%) 241 (20.8%)

Please note: in the table above data for 2024 is up to 12 May