Several cases of whooping cough reported around Cunnamulla in the past week have prompted calls for residents to be alert to the symptoms to help stop the spread of the highly contagious respiratory infection.

Darling Downs Public Health Unit (DDPHU) acting Director Dr Katie Panaretto said it appeared a recent increase in whooping cough cases in the Darling Downs had led to the spread to the west.

She said whooping cough, also known as pertussis, could affect people of any age. However, most of the recent cases had been in children aged 7 to 12 years old.

“In teens and adults, the infection may cause a persistent cough. For babies and young children, however, whooping cough can be life threatening,” Dr Panaretto said.

“Symptoms of whooping cough vary but typically start out like a cold with a runny nose with sneezing, tiredness and characteristic coughing bouts developing over several days. The illness is usually milder in those who have been vaccinated.

“If you or a family member have these symptoms, it’s important to go to the GP or local health centre and be tested. Call ahead to explain you think you might have whooping cough and follow any infection control measures you’re advised of.

“In the meantime, stay away from others, particularly babies who aren’t protected until they have received all their vaccinations at six months of age, and pregnant women.”

Dr Panaretto said the vaccine for whooping cough was provided through the National Immunisation Program for children and pregnant women.

Children aged two months, four months, six months, 18 months, four years, and between 10 and 15 years (at school), can be vaccinated at no cost under the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

Pregnant women in the third trimester, ideally between weeks 28 and 32 of every pregnancy, can also be vaccinated for free through the NIP.

“Since this program was introduced to Australia, there has been a significant drop in severe disease and deaths from whooping cough,” Dr Panaretto said.

“Although the vaccine is effective against death and severe disease, especially in the most vulnerable such as infants under six months of age, some people who have been previously vaccinated or have had the disease before may still develop the disease as their immunity drops off over 5 -10 years post vaccination or illness.

“Vaccination is also recommended for people who work in maternity or with young babies every five years and everyone else every 10 years.”

So far this year, the South West has recorded 6 cases of whooping cough, while the Darling Downs has recorded 169.

For the same year to date period during 2017, the South West recorded 0 cases of whooping cough, while the Darling Downs recorded 81.

For further information contact:

James Guthrie

Principal Media Officer, Rural and Remote Qld

Media and Communication

Department of Health

(07) 3708 5379

Jim.Guthrie@health.qld.gov.au