By Melissa Grant
Parents are being urged to vaccinate their children against whooping cough following a spike of cases in Noosa.
In January and February, there were 37 reported cases of whooping cough in the Noosa area – well above the average of 12 cases for similar periods in previous years.
The increase has prompted Noosa Council to warn residents to stay vigilant and vaccinate against whooping cough.
Noosa Council’s Coordinator of Environmental Health Geoff Atherfold said the target to prevent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease, such as whooping cough, was 95 per cent.
“In the Noosa Shire area we are short of the target with 89 per cent of one-year old children vaccinated, so we encourage all parents to ensure that their children are vaccinated,” Mr Atherfold said.
“This is for both the safety of their own children but also for the safety of other children they come into contact with.
“We all have a responsibility to help prevent an outbreak.”
The highly contagious respiratory tract infection can cause serious, and sometimes life-threatening, health issues. Babies are the most at risk with most hospitalisations and deaths occurring in babies younger than six months old.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, generally starts like a cold with symptoms including a runny nose, sneezing and tiredness over several days before the distinctive coughing bouts develop.
The coughing bouts can be severe and may end with a crowing noise, which sounds like a ‘whoop’, as air is drawn back into the chest. Sometimes the coughing bouts are so severe that a child’s breathing can become obstructed.
Complications in babies include pneumonia, fits and brain damage from prolonged lack of oxygen.
Noosa’s spike in whooping cough cases comes despite a dramatic drop in cases of the infection across Queensland.
Queensland Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said whooping cough notifications had decreased by almost 1000 cases in 2017, and were at the lowest the state had seen in the last five years.
Dr Young said whooping cough epidemics occurred in Australia every three to four years, with the last outbreak occurring in 2008 and continuing until 2012.
“While we can’t predict when the next epidemic will occur, there is always some level of disease circulating in the community, which is why it’s so important to be vigilant and keep up to date with vaccinations,” she said.
Free vaccinations are available for pregnant women in their third trimester and for babies at two, four and six months of age, with booster doses for children at 18 months, four years, and during their first year of high school.
Adults can also have boosters to ensure that they are protected and others. The whooping cough vaccine is combined with that for diphtheria and tetanus and is available from all general practitioners.