Whooping cough prevails

THERE have been 74 cases of whooping cough reported on the North Coast this year, including 13 in the Tweed Byron region.

North Coast Public Health director Paul Corben said the infection seems to be affecting young children between the ages of five and nine.

“We have already had 74 cases reported in the first few weeks of the year, half of these cases are children under 10 years of age,” Mr Corben said.

“Whooping cough can be unpleasant for people of any age, but it can prove to be very serious in babies, even fatal.”

Mr Corben said whooping cough is highly infectious and easily spread from an infected person to others by droplets during coughing.

“Someone with whooping cough will be able to spread it to others for up to three weeks after commencement of their illness unless they are treated with appropriate antibiotics so it is very important that people are treated early to stop the spread of the disease” Mr Corben said.

“Whooping cough usually begins just like an ordinary cold with a runny nose, tiredness and sometimes a mild fever.

“Coughing bouts then develop with attacks followed by a big deep gasp that sometimes produces a whooping sound. Vomiting may follow.”

Adults often just have a cough without the whoop. Untreated coughing bouts may last for three months or more.

“Whooping cough can be very serious in babies and small children who might go blue or even stop breathing during a coughing attack,” Mr Corben said.

He said people needed to take action against spreading the infection and to stay away from babies if they show any signs of symptoms.

“Babies cannot be vaccinated before six weeks of age, and mothers can be vaccinated for free,” Mr Corben said.

“Fathers, family members or anybody who has regular contact with young children is encouraged to be vaccinated.”

Unfortunately, immunity following vaccination or disease is not life long, so older children and adults, as well as those who have never received any vaccines, are susceptible to the infection and reinfection.

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