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Monday, July 15, 2024

Whooping cough on the rise

A RISE of whooping cough has prompted Tropical Public Health Services to remind parents to be aware of symptoms and ensure vaccinations are up to date.

Director of Tropical Public Health Services Dr Richard Gair said whooping cough is a highly infectious illness that can cause uncontrollable coughing and difficulty breathing, particularly for children under one year old.

“Since late November 2023, Tropical Public Health Services have been notified of seven cases in children under six months of age and one case in a pregnant woman,” he said.

“This follows several months of no cases of whooping cough in the Cairns region.

“While many of the cases have been from Cairns, cases in Mareeba and Yarrabah have also been reported.”

Dr Gair said parents need to be on the look out for the symptoms of whooping cough, especially as kids return to day care and school across the region.

“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,” he said.

“Hospitalisation and deaths due to whooping cough mainly occur in babies less than 6 months of age and complications from whooping cough in babies can include pneumonia, seizures and brain damage.”

The typical symptoms of whooping cough are a persistent cough that may occur in bouts with a breathless ‘whoop’ at the end and it is spread by an infected person coughing or sneezing.

Someone with whooping cough is highly infectious for the first three weeks of their illness or until they have received a course of antibiotics, in such time they could pass the illness on to an infant or baby at home.

If your child develops a troublesome and persistent cough, take him/her to your doctor promptly (even if they are fully immunised) and mention if he/she may have had contact with someone with whooping cough.

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

“Staying home while infectious is also vital to prevent spreading the sickness.”

Vaccination is the most effective way to minimise the risk of whooping cough, with most hospitalisations and deaths occurring in babies younger than six months of age.

Dr Gair said one of the best ways to protect infants from whooping cough is for their mother to be vaccinated during pregnancy.

“Whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women is free under the National Immunisation Program and recommended in the third trimester of each pregnancy,” he said.

“The childhood schedule includes whooping cough vaccines for babies and children at two, four, six and 18 months of age, and at four years of age.”

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Cheaper flights to Cairns to boost tourism and Tully cousins recognised for sporting achievements.

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