Date Published: 10 March 2009

NSW Health confirms whooping cough death

Health News from Australia.

NSW Health has today confirmed that a four-week old baby girl, a resident of the North Coast, has died from whooping cough. The child was admitted to hospital last week following the onset of illness and died in intensive care yesterday.

This is the first reported death of a child due to whooping cough since the late 1990s when six children died in NSW.

NSW Health has renewed its warning to adults, especially parents, to be on the look out for the symptoms of whooping cough.

Initial symptoms include a runny nose, tiredness and sometimes a mild fever.

Coughing bouts may then develop followed by a big deep gasp that sometimes produces a whooping sound. Vomiting may follow these bouts of coughing. Adults often just have a cough without the whoop.

To help protect babies, NSW Health has arranged for a free vaccination for all new parents, grandparents and people who care for new babies – available now from GPs.

NSW Health is preparing letters to all new parents across the State advising of arrangements for the free vaccine and contacting GPs to encourage vaccination.

Whooping cough is easily spread to other people by droplets from coughing,” Dr Jeremy McAnulty, NSW Health Director of Communicable Diseases said.

"Someone with whooping cough will be able to spread it to other people for up to three weeks after onset, unless they are treated with particular antibiotics. So it is important that people are treated early to stop the spread of the disease.

Young babies under six months will not have completed their vaccinations so they remain particularly vulnerable to whooping cough and the serious complications following infection.

The best way to protect babies is to keep them away from anyone with a cough to make sure their immunisations are up to date, and to make sure others in the household are vaccinated,” he said.

Dr McAnulty confirmed there have been 3,356 cases of whooping cough in January and February 2009 compared to 448 cases at the same time last year.

To help protect babies, NSW Health is urging all new parents, grandparents and any other adult that regularly cares for infants less than 12 months of age, to get vaccinated by their GP.

NSW Health recommends that all children be given the vaccine to protect against whooping cough – this vaccine is normally given at two months, four months and six months of age.

In light of the current epidemic, parents and GPs are asked to consider bringing the first dose forward to six weeks of age to provide earlier protection.

A further vaccine is given at age four years, with a booster due at around age 15 via the NSW school-based vaccination program.



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