BE ALERT: The Western NSW Local Health District is urging residents of the Dubbo region to watch out for whooping cough. Photo: FileWhooping cough is“in schools” in theDubbo region, reports the Western NSW Local Health District.

On Tuesday afternoon it told ofan “increase in the number of children diagnosed in the Dubbo region over the last few weeks”.

In a statement released about 2.30pm, the health district urged community members and especially parents of school-aged children to be “alert for whooping cough (pertussis)”.

A spokesman for the health district said whooping cough wasa serious respiratory infection that causeda long coughing illness, and couldbe life-threatening for babies.

“Older children can bring home whooping cough from school or childcare and the infection can then be passed on to babies in the home,” he said.

“Whooping cough starts like a cold with a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a mild fever and an occasional cough. The cough usually gets worse, and severe bouts of uncontrollable coughing develop.

“This can be followed by vomiting, choking or taking big gasping breaths which causes the whoopingsound. The cough can last for many weeks and can be worse at night. Some older children and adults just get a cough that doesn’t go away and they may not get any of the other symptoms.”

The health district is warning that whooping cough is highly infectious in the first three weeks of a person’s illnessand can spread easily through families, childcare centres and schools.

General practitioners can test for whooping cough and “treat early” to reduce spread to other people, its says.

“Anyone with a cough lasting more than a day or so should consult their doctor to see if they have whooping cough so they can start appropriate antibiotics. It is important to protect babies who have not been vaccinated,” the spokesman said.

He said babies weregiven whooping cough vaccines at two, four and six months of age, with the first dose able to be given from six weeks.

“It’s also important to be on time with each vaccine in order to get the best protection. Parents should also protect their small children and babies by avoiding anyone with a cough.Vaccination is also available for all pregnant women at 28 weeks,” the spokesman said.

“Whooping cough boosters are also important for older children at four years and later in high school. Boosters provide added protection against whooping cough and can help stop the spread to others.”

The spokesman said whooping cough immunity fadedwith time.

“This means that children and adults can still get the infection even if they’ve been immunised against the disease,” he said.

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