Whooping Cough
Whooping Cough

WATCH OUT: Whooping cough outbreak on the way

NSW Health is urging all pregnant women and new parents to be aware of the symptoms of whooping cough and to ensure they and their children are vaccinated on time.

Despite almost 95 per cent of infants in NSW now vaccinated against the disease, outbreaks still occur every three to four years as community immunity wanes, and recent high numbers indicate an outbreak might be on the way.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, NSW Health's Director of Communicable Diseases, said that in October 2018 almost 800 people in NSW were notified with whooping cough (pertussis), the highest number since October 2016.

Acting director of North Coast Public Health Greg Bell said a similar situation was emerging in Northern NSW where there have been 36 cases of whooping cough reported in the past four weeks.

While these levels of whooping cough across Northern NSW are similar to the averages of the previous five years, pertussis notifications are trending upwards.

The latest Australian Immunisation Register quarterly report shows that at September 2018 90.4 per cent of five-year-olds and 88.9 per cent of 12-month-olds in Northern NSW Local Health District were fully vaccinated.

These figures represent an increase on vaccination rates in 2010 under the-then North Coast Area Health Service, when 84.9 per cent of children aged 5 and 87 per cent of 12-month-olds were fully vaccinated.

Even in highly vaccinated populations it is not possible to eliminate whooping cough.

"Whooping cough is challenging to control at the community level, as it is a highly infectious disease and immunity against whooping cough wanes over time, regardless of whether that immunity is from having the disease or as a result of vaccination," MrBell said.

"This means that the number of people susceptible to whooping cough in the community builds up over time and this can cause periodic spikes or larger outbreaks of the disease.

"The aim of whooping cough control is to protect infants, who are at highest risk of severe disease or death if they contract whooping cough. Whooping cough vaccination is effective in preventing severe infection."