10 June, 2024

Whooping cough warning

A WHOOPING cough outbreak has reached record levels in the Far North.

By Nick Dalton

Whooping cough warning - feature photo

Tropical Public Health Services is urging parents to be aware of symptoms of whooping cough aka pertussis – particularly in babies – and ensure vaccinations are up to date.

Since January 1 there have been more than 60 cases of whooping cough confirmed in the Cairns region, compared to a yearly average of 11.

Tropical Public Health Services acting director Dr Annie Preston-Thomas said whooping cough was a highly-infectious illness that caused uncontrollable coughing and difficulty breathing, particularly for children under one year of age.

“With our peak tourism season about to start in the Far North, this is particularly worrisome as the disease is likely to spread further in our schools and childcare centres,” she said.

“Parents should be on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor if they are concerned. Our priority is to protect children under six months, as whooping cough can be much more severe in babies as they are not fully vaccinated yet.

“Hospitalisation and deaths due to whooping cough mainly occur in babies less than six months of age.

“Complications from whooping cough in babies can include pneumonia and seizures.”

Dr Preston-Thomas said typical symptoms were a persistent cough that may occur in bouts (often with a breathless ‘whoop’ at the end). It is spread by an infected person coughing or sneezing.

“Someone with whooping cough is very infectious for the first three weeks of their illness or until they have received a course of antibiotics, and they could pass the illness on to an infant or baby at home,” she said.

“If your child develops a troublesome and persistent cough, take them to your doctor promptly (even if they are fully immunised) and mention if they have had contact with someone with whooping cough.”

She said unfortunately many people diagnosed with the condition had delayed seeking treatment.

“Early detection and treatment of whooping cough can reduce spread to the most vulnerable, especially infants and women in the late stages of pregnancy,” she said.

“Staying home while infectious is also vital to prevent spreading the sickness.” Dr Preston-Thomas said vaccination was the most effective way to minimise the risk of whooping cough. 


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