Date Published: 15 April 2009

Whooping cough risk for newborns

Health News from Australia.

The Department of Health has reissued its advice to new parents and people caring for young children to have a whooping cough booster following a significant increase in the number of cases across WA in the past six months.

A total of 147 cases were reported to the Department between January and March this year, compared to 50 for the same period last year.

Acting Director of Communicable Disease Control Dr Paul Effler said this figure included 15 infants under one year of age - eight of them needing admission to hospital.

The rise in infections is very concerning because whooping cough can be very severe and even life threatening in very young children,” he said.

The best way to protect babies from whooping cough is to make sure their parents, grand parents, and other care providers won’t get the infection and pass it on to them.”

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is an acute respiratory infection, which is transmitted from one person to another through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

Dr Effler said research in Australia showed that around 50 per cent of babies who catch whooping cough get it from a family member, most usually a parent.

It’s important that parents are aware that until their babies are old enough to have received their full infant pertussis vaccination course at 6 months of age, the risk of becoming infected is high,” he said.

Many people are unaware that immunity from childhood vaccination against whooping cough weakens over time, which means that without a booster vaccination adults can catch the disease in later life.

It’s a good idea for all household members and carers who are in close contact with newborns to consider a booster vaccine to reduce the risk of infants contracting whooping cough.”

New guidelines from Australia’s peak body, the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), recommend pertussis booster immunisation for adults planning a pregnancy, new parents as soon as possible after the delivery of an infant, other adult household members, grandparents, carers and all healthcare workers.



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