Babies face whooping cough scare

BABIES born at the Ipswich Hospital this month were rushed back at the weekend after a midwife tested positive for whooping cough.

The midwife was immunised for whooping cough, which can cause death in infants, but tests confirmed she caught the bacterial infection on Thursday last week.

Mothers and babies that had possible contact with the nurse were called to a clinic on Saturday and given checks, preventative antibiotics and advice on the highly contagious infection.

The scare has prompted health officials to stress the importance of whooping cough immunisations, especially for the parents and carers of babies six months or under who can’t receive the jab.

Queensland Health district CEO Pam Lane said the nurse was on leave and so far no mothers or babies have been diagnosed with whooping cough.

She said all hospital staff that may be at risk have also been provided with advice and medication, while anyone showing signs of whooping cough is not allowed to work.

“Although employees are encouraged to vaccinate against preventable diseases, the only vaccination that is mandatory is Hepatitis B,” she said.

“The booster vaccine for whooping cough (pertussis) is highly recommended for all healthcare workers. There is a high uptake of the vaccine at Ipswich Hospital.”

Ipswich and West Moreton Division of General Practice chairwoman Dr Lisa Moreton said immunisation was the best way to combat whooping cough.

“The community is becoming more complacent about disease, because immunisation has virtually eradicated diseases like measles and polio. But without immunisation, these diseases can come back, as shown by the recent outbreak,” Dr Moreton said.


Whooping cough

Also known as pertussis, it is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by bacteria

Can be life threatening for babies and young children

May start like a cold with a runny nose and sneezing before characteristic cough develops. Coughing bouts can be severe and can end with a crowing noise (the whoop)

Is spread by infected persons coughing or sneezing

The World Health Organisation holds it responsible for 195,000 deaths in 2008.

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