Doctors fear rise in whooping cough

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Doctors fear rise in whooping cough

The number of whooping cough cases in Far North Queensland has increased by almost 400% in 2011 with Queensland Health reporting 745 confirmed cases.

With 34 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the Cairns district already in 2012, residents are being urged to take precautions to protect themselves.

“For adolescents and adults the infection might only cause an irritating, persistent cough,” Dr Richard Gair, Acting Director Medical Services CDC, said.

“But babies and young children are the most vulnerable to the infection. It can be life threatening for babies aged less than six months old as they are not fully protected by vaccination.

“Most babies with whooping cough catch it from a parent or close family member or carer and immunisation is the best way to prevent it.”

Whooping cough vaccine is available free for parents, siblings, grandparents and others who live with infants aged six months or less.

“Adults, child care workers and health care workers who are caring for a baby less than six months old also should have a whooping cough booster vaccine,” Dr Gair said.

“Adults who have not had a booster dose should have one, particularly parents planning a pregnancy or just after the baby is born.”

The most recent figures available indicate that 90.3 per cent of Queensland children aged five are fully vaccinated.

Apart from vaccination, parents and carers can help prevent a baby catching whooping cough by keeping the baby away from anyone with a cough.

Queensland Health advise parents that children with whooping cough need to be excluded from school until they have had taken a five day course of antibiotics.

“Anyone with symptoms of whooping cough should see their doctor for diagnosis and treatment, as early treatment can help prevent the infection spreading," Dr Gair said.

The disease starts with cold-like symptoms and an irritating cough which can develop into bouts of coughing that may be followed by dry retching or vomiting.

In children, the cough may end with a crowing noise (the whoop) as air is drawn back into the chest. 

The increase in whooping cough prevelenace is bound to reignite debate on the issue of immuisation. A record number of comments were posted on The Newsport article 'Immunisation: Should parents choose?' (Wednesday 11 January) in which pro and anti-vaccine camps argued the merits of vaccination. 

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