More schools contacted over whooping cough outbreaks

AT least three North Coast schools have been contacted by health authorities about whooping cough outbreaks in the past month, the Northern NSW Local Health District revealed.

Teven-Tintenbar Public School shared the health district information letter on its Facebook page yesterday and alerted the school community to five confirmed cases.

Assistant director for Public Heath North Coast, Greg Bell said the other two schools contacted were Byron Shire Schools, which he didn't name.

Since January, the district recorded 50 lab-tested whooping cough cases.

The number is "slightly higher" than this time last year.

He said about 30 whooping cough response packages were out in the past few months mostly to parents that may be associated with recent cases around the region.

Mr Bell said the letters, which contain signs and symptoms and management information, are entrenched in standard practise to protect the most vulnerable to the disease such as babies under six weeks old.

He said the spike follows a significant rise in cases last year after low numbers in previous years.

"It really can only rise from here on in and people need to be aware of that," Mr Bell said.

He encouraged pregnant women to get vaccinated against the disease as well as adults who work with children.

Mr Bell also encouraged parents to check if their children need a booster shot after a recent resurgence in cases among school kids between grade four to seven.

He did warn immunised children can sometimes catch an often milder whooping cough infection.

"This illness can affect the family routine for many weeks," he said.

Whooping cough symptoms

  • Whooping cough starts like a cold with a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a mild fever and an occasional cough.
  • The cough gets worse and severe bouts of uncontrollable coughing develop. Coughing bouts can be followed by vomiting, choking or taking a big gasping breath which causes a "whooping" sound. The cough can last for many weeks and can be worse at night.
  • Some newborns may not cough at all but stop breathing completely and turn blue. Other babies have difficulties feeding or they can choke and gag.
  • Older children and adults may just have a mild cough that doesn't go away. In adults the cough commonly lasts 5-7 weeks, sometimes longer.