TOO TRAGIC: Baby Dana Elizabeth McCaffery pictured enjoying a bath with the help of siblings James and Aisling. Dana died on Monday after contracting whooping cough.
TOO TRAGIC: Baby Dana Elizabeth McCaffery pictured enjoying a bath with the help of siblings James and Aisling. Dana died on Monday after contracting whooping cough.

Whooping cough claims baby girl

TWEED parents are being urged to give their children the whooping cough jab following the tragic death of a Northern Rivers baby girl this week.

Health experts are especially pleading with Murwillumbah parents to immunise their children, with records showing the area is suffering five times more whooping cough than Tweed Heads and Kingscliff because of a low vaccination rate.

Only weeks after her birth, Dana Elizabeth McCaffery contracted whooping cough as the illness made its latest round of the Northern Rivers.

On Monday, aged only four weeks old, she died.

Dana's parents Toni and David said in a statement yesterday that they felt “cheated” and “broken-hearted” with their loss.

“But (we) take strength that our girl fought so courageously to beat this insidious disease that claims the most vulnerable,” they said.

Dana's death - the first death of an infant from whooping cough in NSW since 1997 - has triggered a new round of debate about the importance of vaccination against the virulent disease.

“We miss her so much and are devastated that such a beautiful, innocent child is the victim of ignorance. She never stood a chance against this epidemic,” Mr and Mrs McCaffery said in their statement.

In the wake of death, North Coast Area Health Service is now advising parents to have their babies immunised at six weeks of age.

However, bringing the vaccination schedule forward would not have saved the baby that died on Monday, the service's director of public health, Paul Corben conceded.

“The standard schedule was two months, four months and six month intervals but we are asking in context of the current outbreak that people commence their baby's first vaccination at six weeks. The new schedule will be six weeks, four months and six months of age.”

Mr Corben said the community would have to work together to ensure no more children died from the infection by making sure everyone - children and adults alike - was vaccinated.

Mr Corben was backed by prominent Lismore paediatrician, Dr Chris Ingall, who said protecting infants from whooping cough required a co-ordinated community-wide effort.

“The only way to stop babies getting infected with whooping cough is by vaccination, there is no other way,” Dr Chris Ingall said.

“The vaccination rates on the North Coast are the worst in Australia. This is why we have so many incidences in this area compared to other parts of Australia.

“Parents should be alarmed, whooping cough kills little babies. We must get our vaccination rates up so adults don't pass the disease onto babies.”

Whatever comes next will be too late for Dana, Toni and David.

“Our gorgeous Dana has touched so many people - we just wish we could still hold her and see her grow into a beautiful woman.”

What is it?
  • Whooping cough is a disease caused by infection of the throat with bacteria.
  • Symptoms include a runny nose, tiredness, and long periods of coughing followed by a deep gasp.
  • Children may stop breathing during coughing attacks.
  • Children need to be immunised at two, four and six months, followed by boosters at four and 15 years. The vaccination lasts about 10 years.


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