Health authorities are warning people to be aware and take precautions against the highly contagious whooping cough after a rise in cases. There have been over 150 cases reported in the Cairns and district region in the past couple of months.
The most vulnerable to this condition are babies under 6 months of age. If you are working with children of this age and are experiencing symptoms listed in the fact sheet, it would be advisable for you to be tested to ensure you do not pass this on to them.
See below a few facts from the Queensland Health Whooping Cough Fact Sheet, which is available here in full.
What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious disease that is spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact with infected nose or mouth secretions (such as when sharing food or kissing).
Who is most at risk?
Whooping cough is most serious in babies less than 6 months of age as they are not fully protected by vaccination. Most babies with whooping cough catch it from a parent or other close family member or carer.
Complications of whooping cough in babies include pneumonia, fits and brain damage from prolonged lack of oxygen. Most hospitalisations and deaths occur in those less than 6 months of age.
How can whooping cough be prevented?
Immunisation is the best way to prevent whooping cough. A combination vaccine protecting against whooping cough is given at 2 months (can be given from 6 weeks of age), 4 months and 6 months of age; and booster doses are given at 4 years (can be given from 3 years 6 months of age) and to students in year 10 at school. It is very important that vaccinations are given when they are due so you need to make sure that your baby is vaccinated on time.
The best protection for babies less than 6 months of age against whooping cough is for any adults who care for your baby to get a whooping cough booster vaccine.
What is the whooping cough booster vaccine?
The whooping cough booster vaccine is a combination vaccine that provides protection against whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus. It is safe to use in the post natal period and while breast feeding. The vaccine can be given at any time after a previous dose of a vaccine containing tetanus and diphtheria toxoids.
How long does protection last?
Natural infection with whooping cough does not guarantee lifelong protection, and neither does vaccination against the disease. Protection after the disease or vaccination lasts up to ten years.
Who can receive the free whooping cough booster vaccine?
For a limited time, a free adult booster dose of whooping cough vaccine is available for; birth parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents of babies under 6 months of age; plus other other adults in a household with a baby under 6 months of age.
Mothers of newborn babies should see their doctor or immunisation provider to get vaccinated as soon as possible after the birth of the baby.
Other eligible people can request their free vaccination prior to the birth of the baby.
You can obtain this free vaccination from your doctor or immunisation provider.
What if I am not eligible for the free vaccine?
Ask your doctor or immunisation provider about getting the whooping cough booster vaccine – it will need to be purchased on private prescription.