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Health experts encourage whooping cough vaccinations after warning an outbreak is ‘well overdue’

Experts are urging Australians to stay up to date with their whooping cough vaccinations, warning an outbreak of the infectious respiratory disease could be on the way.

The last outbreak of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, peaked in late 2015 with 22,570 confirmed cases.

But infectious diseases experts warn the epidemic tends to occur every three to five years, meaning a major outbreak impacting infants, children and adults alike is “well overdue”.

University of Sydney Professor Robert Booy warned we could see a resurgence of whooping cough in the spring and summer months, when infections tend to spike.

“While respiratory infections such as influenza and RSV have recently risen to pre-pandemic levels, we haven’t yet seen this with whooping cough,” Professor Booy said.

“Whooping cough follows a fairly predictable pattern and it’s very much the sleeping bear of respiratory infectious disease right now.

“We’ve seen years when whooping cough infections in Australia have neared 40,000, so we must be alert to signs of a pending epidemic.”

Known as the “100-day cough”, whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection that attacks the airways, causing uncontrollable coughing and difficulty breathing.

The coughing fits can be so severe that they cause vomiting, incontinence, broken ribs and hospitalisation.

Whooping cough is more contagious than influenza, measles or COVID-19 and, once infected, a person can remain contagious for three weeks or until they complete a course of antibiotics.

As symptoms of whooping cough don’t appear immediately (often for a week or two following infection), the bacteria is easily spread.

Asthma sufferers are at four times greater risk of infection and higher risk of being admitted to hospital.

Asthma sufferers are at four times greater risk of infection and higher risk of being admitted to hospital.

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Booy said people with an ongoing cough should practice social distancing and seek immediate medical advice.

“Increased levels of socialising and travel during the festive season facilitate the spread of airborne bacteria like whooping cough, so vigilance is required,” he said.

Adults require a booster shot at least every 10 years to stay up to date with whooping cough protection, but research shows 80 per cent of Australian adults cannot recall receiving a booster.

The Immunisation Foundation of Australia (IFA) today launched the inaugural Whooping Cough Day to encourage all Australians to remain up to date with vaccination.

IFA founder Catherine Hughes, who tragically lost her four-week-old son to whooping cough in 2015, said there is still room for improvement when it comes to reducing the spread of the disease in the community.

“Most people associate whooping cough with babies, but more than half of all cases are reported in adults,” Hughes said.

“Whooping cough can be fatal in infants and can cause serious illness in older children and adults.

“It’s easy to check your immunisation status against whooping cough and organise a booster, and it’s up to all of us to protect ourselves and our loved ones against whooping cough.”

Australians can check their vaccination status by talking to a doctor, pharmacist or by accessing their Immunisation History Statement via the Medicare app.

Image by Freepik.

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Via Eleanor Wilson
Source 9News

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