Deadly disease outbreak endangering babies
A DEADLY disease has again reared its ugly head and anyone thought to be suffering is urged to stay home from work or school and see their GP immediately.
New South Wales Health is urging all pregnant women and new parents to be aware of the symptoms of whooping cough and to ensure they and their children are vaccinated on time.
Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a serious respiratory infection that causes a long coughing illness and can be deadly to babies.
Older children and adults can get whooping cough and can spread it to others, including babies and the infection can sometimes lead to pneumonia and occasionally brain damage and can be even life threatening.
Despite almost 95 per cent of infants in NSW now vaccinated against the disease, outbreaks still occur every three to four years as community immunity wanes, and recent high numbers indicate an outbreak may be on the way.
An outbreak earlier this year on the Northern Rivers saw 21 cases within four weeks
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, NSW Health's Director of Communicable Diseases, said that in October 2018, almost 800 people in NSW were notified with whooping cough (pertussis), the highest number since October 2016.
"Whooping cough is challenging to control at the community level, as it is a highly infectious disease and immunity against whooping cough wanes over time, regardless of whether that immunity is from having the disease or as a result of vaccination," Dr Sheppeard said..
"This means that the number of people susceptible to whooping cough in the community builds up over time and this can cause periodic spikes or larger outbreaks of the disease.
"The aim of whooping cough control is to protect infants, who are at highest risk of severe disease or death if they contract whooping cough. Whooping cough vaccination is effective in preventing severe infection."
A GP can test for whooping cough and prescribe antibiotics.
People suspected of whooping cough should stay home until they have completed a five-day course of antibiotics.
Since NSW Health introduced free whooping cough vaccination for pregnant women in April 2015 to protect infants in the first weeks of life, there have been no infant deaths from whooping cough in NSW, compared to four deaths in the previous six years.
"People in close contact with newborn infants such as grandparents, partners and close family members should ensure that they have had a whooping cough vaccine in the previous 10 years," Dr Sheppeard said.
"Those that need to get vaccinated should do so at least two weeks before any infant contact."
In May this year Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt urged all parents-to-be to get vaccinated.
His comments came in the wake of the infant Riley Hughes contracted the illness and died when he was just 32 days old.
For more information, see http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/infectious/whoopingcough/pages/default.aspx
Find a whooping cough fact sheet at http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/whoopingcough/Pages/factsheet.aspx