South Australians are being warned to get vaccinated against whooping cough as cases soar
Latest data show a 50% increase in cases compared to the same time last year.
To date, 860 South Australians have contracted the disease compared to 571 at the same time last year.
More than 130 cases have been notified to SA Health in the last four weeks, with public health experts concerned that case numbers in 2017 will reach a five-year high.
“So far this year, more than 800 South Australians have been struck down by the vaccine-preventable whooping cough,” says state health minister Jack Snelling.
“While it is common to see epidemics of whooping cough every four to five years, we want people to check their vaccination status to limit the spread of this heartbreaking and potentially fatal disease.
“Whooping cough is a very serious illness that can have tragic and devastating consequences for those who have not been fully immunised, particularly young babies.
“The State Government provides vaccinations for whooping cough free of charge to pregnant women, but I implore every South Australian to speak to their doctor about getting a booster shot to avoid contracting this disease.”
South Australian pharmacists were given the opportunity to expand into further vaccination services, including vaccinating people aged 16 and over against pertussis, in May 2017.
“Allowing pharmacists to directly administer these vaccines will reduce pressure on GPs, increase the accessibility of vaccinations for the community, and go a long way towards creating a healthier South Australia,” Mr Snelling said at the time.
Director of Vaccinology and Immunology Research Trials Unit, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Professor Helen Marshall, said that the increase in cases is a timely reminder for people to ensure their vaccination status is up to date, and to consider good hygiene practices.
“People should cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, dispose of used tissues and wash their hands to reduce the spread of infection,” Prof Marshall says.
“Vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of whooping cough, however many people who have had the vaccination don’t realise that immunity wanes over time.
“Because infants under six months of age are not able to complete the required series of vaccinations, they are especially vulnerable to whooping cough.
“I encourage all mothers to get vaccinated in the last trimester of their pregnancy to transfer immunity to their baby and provide over 90% protection against severe illness and death.”