By LUKE KEIOSKIE
A RECORD number of whooping cough cases reported on the North Coast over the past two months has health authorities worried about an outbreak of the life-threatening disease.
Since the start of the year, 60 cases of whooping cough have been reported in our area more than twice the number reported in the same period over the last five years.
Public Health director, Paul Corben, said the North Coast has the potential to exceed the 129 cases reported for all of 2007.
"Whooping cough is highly infectious and easily spread," Mr Corben said.
"Someone with whooping cough will be able to spread it to others for up to three weeks after commencement of their illness."
Whooping cough usually begins like an ordinary cold, with a runny nose, tiredness and a mild fever but coughing bouts then develop, with attacks followed by a deep gasp that sometimes produces a whooping sound.
The disease can be fatal in babies and often children need hospital treatment.
"All age groups have been affected, but particularly children under 10 years of age, and in some cases whole families including parents have been infected," Mr Corben said.
A booster vaccine is commercially available for adults from GPs and vaccinations for children are highly recommended.
All children under six months and anyone who has not received three doses of whooping cough vaccine are vulnerable to the disease.
"If you have a small child or baby, make sure you don't let anyone with a coughing illness get too close to the child and make sure their immunisations are up to date," Mr Corben said.
Further information can be obtained from the North Coast Public Health Unit on 6620 7500 (Lismore) or 6588 2750 (Port Macquarie).