Sick child.
Sick child. iStock

25 confirmed cases of infectious cough

THERE have been 25 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the 4 weeks in the Clarence Valley.

That is a significant rise from the same four week period, to August 26, since last year when there were three cases reported according to Paul Corben, Director Public Health Unit, Northern NSW Local Health District.

"In 2016 there were 25 cases and in 2015 there were 6 cases," he said.

"The latest Australian Immunisation Register report shows that 93.5% per cent of children aged 5 years and 92.5% per cent of 12-month olds living in Clarence Valley area were fully vaccinated.

"Even in highly vaccinated populations it is not possible to eliminate whooping cough.

"The main aim of whooping cough control is to prevent severe disease and death in infants.

"While there is no room for complacency, it is pleasing to note that there have been no infant deaths from whooping cough in NSW since the maternal vaccination program commenced in April 2015."

Yesterday, Grafton Public School posted on their Facebook page that a parent has informed the school a child had tested positive to whooping cough.

"There are also other cases at other schools and organisations in the Clarence Valley," the school wrote.

"Please be aware of the symptoms as your child could pick it up anywhere."

A Department of Education spokesperson confirmed health advice had been sent out to parents in a class note following the confirmed case of the infection.

"They also put a general note on their Facebook page with a link to the relevant NSW Health fact sheet," the spokesperson said.

Whooping cough can be just an annoying cough for adults and older children but for young babies it can be life-threatening.

Whooping cough can be spread by the infected person within the first three weeks of the illness with the bacteria easily inhaled by babies, children and adults nearby.

Whooping cough vaccination with modern acellular whooping cough vaccine is effective in preventing typical whooping cough around 85 per cent of the time and prevents mild whooping cough around 75 per cent of the time.

But the human immune system doesn't remember the abnormal bacteria forever, either after an episode of whooping cough infection or after vaccination or booster vaccination. This means you can still contract whooping cough again but the infection will often be milder.

Because immunity to whooping cough fades with time and the effectiveness is not 100 per cent, NSW Health advise that the best way to ensure protection from the infection is for as many people to be immunised as possible to create a herd immunity.

Symptoms

  • Whooping cough starts like a cold with a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a mild fever and an occasional cough.
  • The cough gets worse and severe bouts of uncontrollable coughing develop. Coughing bouts can be followed by vomiting, choking or taking a big gasping breath which causes a "whooping" sound. The cough can last for many weeks and can be worse at night.
  • Some newborns may not cough at all but stop breathing completely and turn blue. Other babies have difficulties feeding or they can choke and gag.
  • Older children and adults may just have a mild cough that doesn't go away. In adults the cough commonly lasts 5-7 weeks, sometimes longer.

Whooping cough can be spread in the first three weeks of illness. The bacteria can be inhaled by babies, children and adults nearby.

For more information, head to the NSW Health Website.