Whooping cough cases up
By MARY MANN
WHEN Jane and Charly Wrencher think back to March, 2005, they recall a 'horror house' full of coughing kids, sleepless nights and bright pink antibiotics.
The Coorabell couple and their four children, one of them four-month-old baby Duke, were infected with whooping cough and forced to spend a fortnight in isolation.
It's now that time of the year again, and already there has been a worrying increase in cases on the Northern Rivers.
The North Coast Area Health Service is warning families about the disease and urging them to get their vaccinations up to date.
"It was a nightmare, very traumatic," Jane said.
"Our eldest son got it first, then we all got it.
"It was so contagious, everyone around us seemed to get it too so we had to stay isolated while we were taking the antibiotics."
Jane remembers being concerned for the life of her youngest, who she had to sit up with at night, patting him on the back while he had coughing fits and vomited.
"It was hideous, it took almost a year for us to get back to normal. It was a bad year for us," she said.
To ensure local families don't have to suffer like the Wrenchers, the director of North Coast Public Health, Paul Corben, is warning parents about the seriousness of the disease.
"Whooping cough can be unpleasant for people of any age. But it can prove very serious for babies, even fatal," he said.
"With 60 cases reported in the first two months of 2008, we have received over two-and-a-half times the average number of cases reported in the same period over the previous five years.
"We are already well on the way to exceeding the 129 cases reported for all of 2007."
Whooping cough is highly infectious and easily spread from an infected person to others by airborne droplets during coughing.
"Someone with whooping cough will be able to spread it to others for up to three weeks after commencement of their illness, unless they are treated with appropriate antibiotics," Mr Corben said.
"So it is very important people are treated early to stop the spread of the disease.
"This disease places serious health and financial burdens on these families. Often parents need to take time off work to care for their children, who are not allowed to attend day care or school while infectious."
Whooping cough usually begins like an ordinary cold. Early symptoms are a runny nose, tiredness and sometimes a mild fever.
To help prevent serious illness, parents are urged to ensure that young babies and children are fully vaccinated.
For more information go to www.health.nsw.gov.au