In late 2018 there were almost 2,500 cases of Whooping Cough reported to the NSW Department of Health, between the months of September and November.
It is vital that pregnant women and their families are aware of what this infection is and how we can best prevent it, in particular, to keep newborns and young children safe.
What is Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough (Pertussis) is a nasty bacterial lung infection, which is potentially life-threatening for newborn babies and very young children. Whooping cough can cause apnoea, feeding problems and weight loss, pneumonia, brain damage, seizures and even in some cases, death. Whooping cough is airborne and spreads via inhaling particles of the bacteria when someone carrying the infection, coughs. To confirm a case of Whooping Cough, a swab from the nose or the back of the throat is sent to the lab for culture.
Early detection, a five-day treatment of oral antibiotics and isolation, will help prevent the spread of infection. Without early detection and the appropriate antibiotic therapy, a person is contagious for the first 3 weeks of coughing and therefore more likely to spread the infection further.
Vaccination and community ‘herd protection’ is our best chance of prevention.
What you should look for
Whooping cough generally starts similarly to a cold, with a blocked or runny nose, congestion, fever and a cough. With whooping cough, the cough persists and becomes more severe. Uncontrollable bouts of coughing which may cause gasping and a ‘whooping’ sound generally develops and may be worse at night.
Rather than coughing, newborns may just have difficulty both breathing and feeding and can turn blue, choke and stop breathing.
Older children and adults maybe unwell initially and then have a cough that lasts several months.
New best practice to protect our baby, family and community, is a free vaccination for all pregnant women anytime between 20 – 32 weeks of pregnancy. This vaccination is 90% effective in protecting a baby against whooping cough in the first 6 months of life. This vaccination is offered for each pregnancy.
Immunisation for children and infants
Babies require immunisations at 6-8 weeks, 4 months, 6 months and 18 months of age.
Children require a booster immunisation at 4 years of age.
A second booster is required in year 7 of high school.
Immunisation for Adults
It is recommended that other people living in your household, as well as others who have regular contact with your baby be vaccinated, particularly if they are caring for you and your family in the initial weeks following birth and up to the first 12 months. This ‘herd protection’ around a newborn and young family is our best chance of prevention. We recommend a booster every 5 years for adults caring for newborns and children, otherwise, it is a 10-year vaccination.
If you believe you may have been in contact with someone with whooping cough whilst pregnant please contact our rooms for testing and information, or see your local GP.
For more information on whooping cough, please visit the NSW health Website: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/whoopingcough/Pages/Info-for-new-parents.aspx or call the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809.