Immunisation boost to battle whooping cough
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Immunisation boost to battle whooping cough

THE State Government has won Commonwealth support for a national immunisation strategy to help stem the surge in cases of whooping cough, which has resulted in the death of three infants this year.

"This national strategy will help to prevent the spread of the disease and protect vulnerable children, especially those under 12 months old," the NSW Health Minister, John Hatzistergos, said. "It will also raise awareness about the need for boosters for new parents and childcare workers and counteract misinformation about immunisation."

Medical experts recommend all children be given the combination vaccine, which protects against whooping cough and several other diseases.

"The vaccine is normally given at two months, four months and six months of age,'' Mr Hatzistergos said. ''However, parents and GPs are being urged to bring the first dose forward to six weeks of age to provide earlier protection."

Initial symptoms of whooping cough may include runny nose, tiredness and mild fever. Coughing bouts may develop followed by a big, deep gasp, then often vomiting.

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The renewed vaccination push follows a surge in whooping cough cases, with more than 10,005 in NSW this year, compared with 2099 in 2007. NSW accounts for most of the 19,028 cases reported this year.

The latest epidemic has seen almost twice the cases of the previous epidemic in 2005-06, when 11,200 were reported.

Between 1993 and 2006, there were 21 deaths from whooping cough, with all but four being infants less than 12 months old.

According to NSW Health, large numbers of babies and young children - who are most of risk of dying from the disease - are still falling ill even though monthly notifications of the disease continue to decline from the peak of the outbreak last December.

In March, the Government announced a free vaccine for all new parents, grandparents and any other adults who regularly care for infants and asked GPs to bring the first dose forward from two months to six weeks.

The move came after the death of four-week-old Dana McCaffery on the state's North Coast, which has one of the nation's lowest childhood vaccination rates.

The region is home to the Australian Vaccination Network led by Meryl Dorey, who claims vaccines cause autism, brain damage and cancer. Ms Dorey and her network were reported to the health-care watchdog last month for allegedly spreading misinformation and endangering children's health.