http://a.abcnews.com

Fatal disease infects kids on Coffs Coast

A TENFOLD increase in whooping cough cases on the North Coast in 2008 has health officials calling on parents to immunise their children against the potentially fatal infection.

In the past five years, the North Coast Area Health Service recorded an average of just 176 cases of whooping cough - but that figure blew out to more than 1000 cases in 2008, the highest rate of infection recorded.

The increase mirrors statistics that show cases of infection across NSW were four times higher in 2008 than the previous year.

North Coast Public Health director Paul Corben said whooping cough is a serious infection that can prove fatal for babies.

“Whooping cough is highly infectious and easily spread, and we're very lucky so far that there have been no deaths in this current outbreak,” Mr Corben said.

“It can be very serious in babies and small children who might stop breathing during a coughing attack, and often children need to be treated in hospital.”

Between 1995 and 2003 there were 18 deaths across Australia caused by whooping cough, with 16 of the deaths babies under 12 months old. Two of the deaths occurred on the North Coast.

Based on population rate, Bellingen's rate of infection in 2008 was 240 out of every 100,000 people, while Coffs Harbour's was 60 out of every 100,000 people.

Information about whooping cough and vaccination can be obtained by calling 6620 7500 or online by visiting the website, www.health.nsw.gov.au.



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