Get the jab, and curb the spread of whooping cough
Recent outbreaks of whooping cough at schools across the state has prompted health authorities to remind Queenslanders to ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date.
Acting Executive Director, Communicable Diseases Branch, Dr Heidi Carroll said Queensland Health has been notified of 14 outbreaks in schools in the Gold Coast,
Darling Downs and North Brisbane areas in the last two months, some of which are still ongoing.
“We’ve had 1,595 notifications of whooping cough across the state, a 25 percent increase on notifications from the same time last year,” she said.
“It’s certainly not as high as we’ve seen in the last decade, but it’s tracking upwards, which is why it’s important to ensure you and your children’s whooping cough vaccinations are up-to-date.
“Whooping cough epidemics generally occur every three to four years – and we have not seen a high number of cases since the epidemic that commenced in 2008 and continued until 2012.
“While we can’t predict when the next epidemic will occur, there is always some level of disease circulating in the community, which is why vaccination should be a priority.”
Dr Carroll said vaccination was the most effective way to minimise the risk of whooping cough, with most hospitalisations and deaths occurring in babies younger than six months of age.
“For adults and adolescents, whooping cough may only cause a persistent cough – but for babies it can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening health issues,” she said.
“One of the best ways to protect infants from whooping cough is for their mother to be vaccinated during pregnancy.”
Whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women is free under the National Immunisation Program and recommended in the third trimester of each pregnancy.
The childhood schedule includes whooping cough vaccines for babies at two, four, and six months of age, with booster doses for children at 18 months, four years, and in year 7.
“While childhood vaccination rates are high and approaching our target of 95 percent, we know that a lot of pregnant women and adolescents are not receiving their recommended booster doses,” Dr Carroll said.
Year 7 students who did not receive their free whooping cough vaccine at school this year can still receive the free vaccine at their family doctor or community immunisation clinic. While the vaccine is free, a doctor’s consultation fee may apply.
“Minimising the risk of whooping cough and protecting our most vulnerable is everybody’s responsibility, which is why it is so important to keep up to date with vaccinations,” Dr Carroll said.
In Australia, the whooping cough vaccine is provided in combination with diphtheria and tetanus, and is available from general practitioners or immunisation providers.
Whooping cough vaccination is also recommended every ten years for healthcare workers, early childhood workers, people in close contact with infants, and people aged 65 and over.
Queensland Pertussis (whooping cough) notifications
Year to date: 1 Jan – 9 Dec
For a regional breakdown of notifications, visit the Queensland Health website.
Media contact: 3708 5376