School in whooping cough scare

TWO cases of whooping cough have been reported at Catholic high school Shalom College in recent weeks.

A notice was sent out to parents in the college's newsletter last week, although it is not known if further action was taken to notify parents.

“We have had at least two reported cases of this (whooping cough) recently,” the newsletter read.

“Please be vigilant, as this disease is easily transmitted. Infected students should stay away from school for at least five days.”

There have been 31 cases of whooping cough reported in the Bundaberg region since the start of the year, with three or fewer cases reported each week.

But it was confirmed no other cases have been reported in schools in recent weeks.

Sunshine Coast Wide Bay Health Service District executive director of medical services Tim Smart said if parents suspected their child had whooping cough, they should see their GP immediately.

“Whooping cough might start like a cold, with a runny nose and sneezing, and then the characteristic cough develops,” Dr Smart said.

“The coughing bouts related to pertussis can be very severe, and may end with a crowing noise — the whoop. This can be followed by vomiting or gagging.”

Dr Smart said five days away from school may not be long enough to stop the spread of infection.

“A person with whooping cough should stay away from work, school and childcare until they have had a full course of antibiotics, or until 21 days after the beginning of the coughing or until the end of coughing, whichever comes first,” he said.

He said the cough could be prevented by vaccination.

“Parents and carers of newborns are also eligible for a free pertussis vaccination. This is because babies are not fully vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough) until the age of six months, and having family members vaccinated prevents them from exposing an unvaccinated baby to the bacteria,” he said.

Children should be immunised against the cough at two, four and six months of age, and again at four years, before a final vaccination in Year 10.

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