Mackay Daily Mercury

Whoop cough epidemic

NORTH Coast residents are about 50 times more likely to catch whooping cough than the swine flu.

So far this year the North Coast Area Health Service has recorded 936 cases of whooping cough, compared to 20 cases of swine flu, causing health bosses to declare it an epidemic.

“An epidemic is really just when we've got a lot more cases than we expected,” director of public health Paul Corben said.

“Certainly the level of whooping cough in the past 18 months has been well in excess of what we expected.”

Mr Corben said 936 cases have been recorded this year, compared to the past five year's average of 111.

“Vaccinations are a particularly important part of battling whooping cough,” he said.

“It is recommended babies start their vaccinations at six weeks.

“Babies under 12 months are the most vulnerable.”

This follows the tragic death of a four-week-old Northern Rivers baby from whooping cough in March.

“Because of the extent of this epidemic it's particularly important to protect babies that are too young to be vaccinated,” Mr Corben said.

“NCAHS is providing free vaccinations for new parents and grand-parents and people who regularly look after babies.”Mr Corben said it is important to understand the whooping cough vaccination and immunity wear off over time and booster shots are recommended throughout life.

Murwillumbah's “immunisation guru” GP Doug Warne said despite the belief that many people are refusing to vaccinate their children this is not the case.

“Immunisation rates on the Tweed have increased over the past five years,” Dr Warne said.

“In general a small per cent (of parents) have concerns about possible adverse affects of immunisation and despite continuing education refuse it.”

If you are experience flu-like symptoms or a coughing illness seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Fast facts

• The North Coast's average from the past five years is 111 whooping cough cases.

• 936 cases of whooping cough have been recorded so far this year on the NC.

• 38 NC cases this year have been babies and 13 have needed to be hospitalised.

• A total of 1009 whooping cough cases were recorded in 2008.

• Between 1993 and 2005 there were 18 deaths in Australia from whooping cough, 16 of these were babies under 1.

• The whooping cough vaccination has a 70-85 per cent success rate.

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