Coughing up a tally of reports

A SMALL group of students from Clarence Valley Anglican School have been confirmed as having the contagious bacterial infection whooping cough.

The recent diagnosis adds to an alarming number of increased cases of the disease in the North Coast region in 2011.

North Coast director of public health Paul Corben said there had been 699 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the region as of October 20 - a 51% increase of the five-year average.

"The increase in the number of people diagnosed with whooping cough on the North Coast is very alarming," he said.

"Numbers are significantly higher among children aged five to nine years but it is the little children, to young to be vaccinated (six weeks), who are at the most risk.

"Vaccination is the easiest way of reducing susceptibility of infection. In NSW, vaccination against whooping cough is free for children under 12-months of age.

"Babies should be vaccinated at six weeks, four months, six months and a follow-up booster shot at four years to give them immunity against this disease."

Early symptoms of whooping cough include a runny nose, sore throat and a cough with a whoop sound which gradually worsens.

A spokesperson from Clarence Valley Anglican School said the students were not seriously ill and steps had been taken in accordance to Health Department Regulations to prevent further outbreaks.

"The students, all of primary school age, had just returned from holidays before becoming sick. The school can confirm the whooping cough bug was not caught on the premises," they said.

"All students have been treated by their doctors and no further cases have been reported."

Paul encourages all new parents and grandparents to receive a booster injection for whooping cough to protect newborn babies against the disease.

Medical attention should be sought if a cough persists.

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