Whooping Cough has been in the news more regularly. Our Midwife Angela Smith has summarised some important facts about the disease.
- It is a bacterial infection, not a virus – signs and symptoms are very “flu like” with the addition of a prolonged episode of coughing. At the end of the coughing fit there is a big intake of air often with a “whoop” sound – hence the name.
- It is a notifiable disease in Australia. In 2010-2011, there was a Whooping Cough outbreak with 22,000 cases reported in NSW alone. The 2015/16 year (April to March), saw 14,006 cases, the majority of these were in children under 14 years of age, with 2,300 cases in children under 4 years old. From January to March 2016, there have been 3,698 reported cases.
- The spread of Whooping Cough occurs when infected people sneeze or cough, releasing droplets of bacteria into the air. Other people breath in the droplets which stick to the lining of the nose and throat, and multiply rapidly. The bacteria produce toxins which can paralyse cells in the windpipe and lungs and stop the airways being cleared of mucous and debris. This can lead to pneumonia (infection of the lungs) which can stop oxygen from getting into the blood.
- Globally, Whooping Cough kills about 250,000 children every year and many others are left with brain damage. If you suspect your baby has Whooping Cough, you should see your General Practitioner (GP) immediately.
- The current recommendation is that all pregnant women be given the Whooping Cough vaccine at 28 weeks gestation. This allows time for the immunity to pass through to the baby, so at birth, the baby has some protection until they receive their first vaccination, at six weeks of age. The rest of the population and certainly anyone having close contact with a newborn baby should make sure their immunisations are up to date. A booster every five years is the recommendation for the general population. More information on Whooping Cough can be found at the NSW Government Health Website or speak with Dr Morris at your next visit.