Western NSW Local Health District would like to issue a warning to all people, especially parents of school-aged children to be on alert for whooping cough (pertussis) following an increase in the number of children diagnosed in the Dubbo region over the last few weeks.
Whooping cough is a serious respiratory infection that causes a long coughing illness, and can be life-threatening for babies. Older children can bring home whooping cough from school or childcare and the infection can then be passed on to babies in the home.
Whooping cough starts like a cold with a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a mild fever and an occasional cough. The cough usually gets worse, and severe bouts of uncontrollable coughing develop. This can be followed by vomiting, choking or taking big gasping breaths which causes the ‘whooping’sound. The cough can last for many weeks and can be worse at night. Some older children and adults just get a cough that doesn’t go away and they may not get any of the other symptoms.
Whooping cough is highly infectious in the first three weeks of a person’s illness and can spread easily through families, childcare centres and schools. General practitioners can test for whooping cough and treat early to reduce spread to other people.
Anyone with a cough lasting more than a day or so should consult their doctor to see if they have whooping cough so they can start appropriate antibiotics. It is important to protect babies who have not been vaccinated.
Babies are given whooping cough vaccines at two, four and six months of age, with the first dose able to be given from six weeks. It's also important to be on time with each vaccine in order to get the best protection. Parents should also protect their small children and babies by avoiding anyone with a cough. Vaccination is also available for all pregnant women at 28 weeks.
Whooping cough boosters are also important for older children at four years and later in high school. Boosters provide added protection against whooping cough and can help stop the spread to others. Whooping cough immunity fades with time. This means that children and adults can still get the infection even if they've been immunised against the disease.
Media enquiries:Brendan Williams, Media Manager, Western NSW Local Health District via email@example.com