Whooping cough alert

PARENTS have been warned to be on the lookout for symptoms of whooping cough in young babies, following a worrying increase in cases across the State.

NSW Health has issued a health alert, reporting there have been 3000 cases of whooping cough reported so far this year, more than double the number for the same period last year.

A large number of cases have occurred on the North Coast and Western Sydney.

NSW Health chief medical officer Professor Jim Bishop said whooping cough can be unpleasant for people of any age, but it can prove to be very serious in babies, even fatal.

“Young babies under six months will not have been fully vaccinated so they remain vulnerable to whooping cough,” Professor Bishop said.

“The advice of NSW Health is that the best way to protect babies is to keep them away from anyone with a cough and to make sure their immunisations are up to date.”

A booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is available from GPs.

People who have contact with small children, such as parents or grandparents, or people working with small children, including health care and childcare workers, should also be vaccinated.

“Whooping cough is easily spread to other people by droplets from coughing,” Professor Bishop said.

“Someone with whooping cough will be able to spread it to other people for up to three weeks after onset (unless they are treated with antibiotics).

“So it is important that people are treated early to stop the spread of the disease.”

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 these bouts of coughing while adults often just have a cough without the whoop.

In 2008 and 2009 more than 20,000 people were diagnosed with whooping cough (pertussis) in NSW.

Anyone with symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible.

The whooping cough vaccine is provided free of charge for infants at two, four and six months of age.

A free booster is also given at four years of age.

For a limited time, a free pertussis (dTpa) vaccine is available for all new parents, grandparents and any other adults, who regularly care for infants less than 12 months of age.

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