BEST SHOT: The Coast is lagging behind in preventative immunisation.
BEST SHOT: The Coast is lagging behind in preventative immunisation. Contributed

Calls for vaccination: 79 cases of whooping cough in April

UPDATE 1pm: A LOCAL public health spokesperson said the recent spike in whooping cough cases on the Northern Rivers was a continuation of a worrying trend.

This year there were 79 cases of whooping cough confirmed during the month of April in the Northern NSW Local Health District, according to statistics from the NSW Department of Health.

In 2016 this number was 77, in 2015 it was eight, just three in 2014 and four cases in 2013.

From the figures the current spike was no surprise to The North Coast Public Health Unit who anticipated a threat of the infection, Acting Director of Public Health, Greg Bell said.

"Months April-May hold a real threat but last year cases dropped off as quickly as they rose," Mr Bell said.

 

THURSDAY 8.50am: PARENTS are being urged to vaccinate their children immediately after a spike in cases of whooping cough.

The North Coast Public Health Unit are asking parents to immunise their children against preventable diseases after a spike in cases of the potentially deadly whooping cough disease.

Acting Director of Public Health, Greg Bell, said there had been 37 whooping cough notifications on the North Coast in the last week, more than double that of the previous week.

"Anyone can contract whooping cough, it spreads easily by sneezing and coughing, and can be a life threatening infection for infants," Mr Bell said.

Public health units (PHUs) actively follow up all cases involving children under five years of age by attempting to contact parents by phone. For those cases involving patients older than five years, the PHU sends either an SMS or letter in an attempt to provide all cases with information relating to whooping cough in a timely manner.

Mr Bell said the North Coast experienced a similar spike in whooping cough cases leading into winter last year.

He said persistent low vaccination levels in some parts of Northern NSW was worrying, given that free vaccination is available to all parents. Whooping cough vaccination is valuable in preventing severe infection in infants and toddlers, and if unvaccinated children are infected they are at high risk of severe disease.

"It must be remembered that prior to the NSW Government introducing free antenatal whooping cough vaccinations in 2015, four infants had died in the preceding six years," Mr Bell said.

"All pregnant women are urged to have the free whooping cough vaccine during their third trimester, preferably at 28 weeks, to provide optimal protection to their infants."

Positive health interventions, such as vaccination, in the first five years of a child's life are vitally important in laying the foundation for a healthy and fulfilling life.

The NSW Immunisation Program provides communities with protection against vaccine preventable diseases across all ages including infants, children, adolescents, healthcare workers and older people.

Vaccination is the best way to protect your child and other children in the community from serious diseases such as measles, whooping cough and hepatitis B.

Vaccines work best if they are given on time. Even if a child has a runny nose or cold they can still have their vaccines. Vaccination against pertussis (whooping cough) is recommended for babies aged six to eight weeks, then at four months and six months of age. A booster is recommended at 18 months, again at four years of age and in the first year of high school. Delaying vaccination can increase the risk of your child getting sick.

NSW Health has made it easier for parents to ensure their children are fully immunised on time through its innovative app - Save the Date to Vaccinate.

The app allows parents to enter their child's name and birth date, as well as their General Practitioner's (GP) contact details. It then calculates the next immunisation due date and sends a series of reminders to prompt the parent to call their GP to schedule an appointment for each immunisation. Parents can make that call straight from the app.



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