Barwon region sees spike in whooping cough cases

Whooping Cough outbrake

A rise in the number of whooping cough cases in the Barwon South West region has prompted a call for adults to get their booster shots, to stop the spread of potentially deadly infection.

The area, which includes the Surf Coast, Geelong, Queenscliff and Warrnambool has seen 90 cases reported so far this year.

In Victoria this year, there have been more than 260 whooping cough cases in children and more than 150 cases in adults. The Geelong region has seen a spike of 30 more cases than this time last year.

Adults urged to get boosters

Sick baby in hospital hands

Adults are being reminded that they need vaccine boosters every 15 years. “Once people are in their 20s to 30s, the vaccine they had in childhood is no longer as effective,” Barwon Health Department of Infectious Disease ­director Eugene Athan told the Geelong Advertiser.

“So they should get a ­booster, and people aren’t aware to do that. As a result, they can spread the germ and then young babies and children can be affected.”

Generally, when adults have a tetanus booster, they get the whooping cough booster at the same time. Children are immunised against whooping cough at two, four, six and 18-months old.

Pregnancy and the whooping cough vaccination

All pregnant women in Australia are now offered a free whooping cough vaccine, with the recommendation that they should be vaccinated during the third trimester of every pregnancy, ideally between 28 and 32 weeks.

According to the Victorian Department of Health, the mum-to-be is protected by the vaccine which reduces the risk of her getting whooping cough and passing it onto her newborn. Antibodies produced against pertussis during pregnancy also transfer to the unborn baby, which provides added protection.

What is whooping cough?

Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the lungs and airways.

It’s most serious in babies under 12 months old, but particularly when they are very young. Their soft airways are vulnerable to damage that’s caused by severe bouts of coughing, and they may not yet be immune from vaccinations.

Older children and adults can still get whooping cough, even if they’ve been vaccinated. The cough can last up to three months, but it’s not as dangerous as it is for babies.

Whooping cough symptoms

  • Begins with a persistent, dry, irritating cough that progresses into intense bouts of coughing
  • In small children, the bouts of coughing can be followed by a ‘whooping’ noise as they breathe in
  • A runny nose
  • Raised temperature
  • Vomiting after coughing

The incubation period is between seven and 20 days, and the infectious period lasts from the first signs until about three weeks after the coughing starts. Even if antibiotics are started, the infectious period continues for up to five days after.

More information can be found at Health Direct.

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