HUNTER schools have urged parents to keep their children at home if they are displaying symptoms of whooping cough following an outbreak of cases in the region.
There have been 776 confirmed cases of whooping cough – pertussis – in the Hunter this year to date, up from 589 during the same period in 2017, but down from 1033 in 2016.
It comes as several local schools issued warnings to parents last week to have their children tested if they suspected they had been exposed to whooping cough, or were exhibiting symptoms of a common cold and a cough.
Dudley Public has had confirmed cases of whooping cough across all stages of the school.
“Every day we are having more cases confirmed,” a notification sent to parents said.
“Unfortunately parents are not adhering to the School and Department policy and are not keeping their children at home when required.”
The school has warned that children who have been tested for pertussis should not return to school until they have had a negative result, or they have been on antibiotics for five consecutive days.
Hunter New England Health public health physician Dr David Durrheim said whooping cough was “always around”, and the current vaccine – although lifesaving for children in the first year of life – only provided “robust” protection for about three-to-five years.
“We will always have whooping cough with the current vaccine, but if people continue to get their children vaccinated early, and pregnant women get vaccinated in the third trimester, we won’t have what we have had in the past, which is whooping cough deaths in little ones,” Dr Durrheim said.
“The number of cases is similar to previous years. They are not trivial numbers, but it does show that there is whooping cough activity, and therefore it is very important that all little ones – those most vulnerable to getting severe whooping cough, and even dying of whooping cough – need to be protected by vaccination.”
Dr Durrheim said there were “low levels” of pertussis activity in different parts of the region, but nothing “specifically clustering”.
“Our concern is particularly with child care and pre-school care, because those children often have brothers and sisters in the first year of life, and they are the ones that are most vulnerable,” he said. “Older children and adults can get whooping cough, it’s often called the 100-day cough. It’s horrible, it’s unpleasant, it disturbs sleep, and it persists for three months – which is terrible. But it is generally not life-threatening in those age groups. The bigger risk is if older children or adults have a child at home in that first year of life that it is particularly concerning.”
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