Worrying whooping cough surge in NSW: 37 new cases in the last week

newborn baby crying

The number of cases of whooping cough have doubled in the last week, prompting stern reminders about the importance of immunisation from public health officials. 

Spike in confirmed cases

Northern New South Wales – around Ballina (surprise, surprise!) – is the area most affected by the current outbreak. Northern NSW Public Health Unit acting director, Greg Bell, voiced his concern for vulnerable infants as this outbreak gains momentum.

“A week ago we had 15 cases, which is drifting along to what we would expect, then all of a sudden it doubled up to 37 cases and this week we are looking quite high again,” Mr Bell said.

“It is a spike that adds concern to us for protecting our little ones, unvaccinated and little ones that haven’t started vaccinations.”

The ABC says that Northern New South Wales has some of the lowest vaccination rates in Australia (due to suspicion of vaccination in general), making this outbreak regrettable, but unsurprising.

More cases ahead?

A total of 79 cases of whooping cough were confirmed in this region during the month of April, with cases increasing, year on year. 

“Months April-May hold a real threat,” Mr Bell told the Daily Examiner. “Anyone can contract whooping cough, it spreads easily by sneezing and coughing, and can be a life threatening infection for infants.”

Mr Bell sought to remind parents that not vaccinating against this serious illness could have very dire consequences.

“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.”

Whooping cough 101

Whooping cough is highly infectious and spread by droplet infection. 

The time from infection to the appearance of symptoms is 6 to 20 days.

A person with whooping cough is infectious for the first 21 days of their cough – or until they have taken five days of a full ten day course of antibiotics.

Whooping cough symptoms mimic those of a cold and can escalate very quickly. They include:

  • severe and persistent cough 
  • characteristic ‘whooping’ sound when inhaling
  • vomiting after coughing
  • pauses in breathing, turning blue
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • dehydration

If you’re unsure whether you or your child are fully immunised against whooping cough, contact your GP for further advice.

If you think someone in your family is exhibiting symptoms of whooping cough, phone your doctor to discuss next steps.

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