THE Sunshine Coast is in the midst of a whooping cough epidemic with an average of three new cases presenting every day this year.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, can cause cold-like symptoms for adults but is fatal for about one in 200 babies infected.
New Queensland Health figures show a total of 169 cases has been diagnosed by doctors since January 1.
Of these, 39 cases were in children aged under five and four were in children less than one year old. A record breaking 83 cases were diagnosed in December and 111 cases in November.
These figures come as the State Government yesterday announced the free whooping cough vaccination program would be extended.
All parents, foster parents, adoptive parent and grandparents of babies under six months are now eligible.
It also includes anyone living in a household with a baby under six months of age.
Public health physician, Sunshine Coast Public Health Unit physician Dr Andrew Langley said whooping cough usually started like a cold, with a runny nose, sneezing and tiredness.
“After several days a characteristic cough develops,” he said.
“Coughing bouts can be very severe and frightening in young children and frequently end with vomiting.”
Dr Langley said anyone with these symptoms was encouraged to contact their GP for testing and, if necessary, treatment.
“Testing for whooping cough requires a throat swab and sometimes a blood test and treatment is a full course of antibiotics, which reduces the time a person is infectious to others,” he said.
Dr Langley said whooping cough was spread through coughing and sneezing.
“A person is most infectious in the early stages of their illness,” he said.
“Unless treated with antibiotics a person is regarded as infectious for three weeks after the cough began.”
It is important that anyone with whooping cough is isolated until they have had at least five days of their course of antibiotics, or until three weeks after the cough began.
New Health Minister Geoff Wilson said 1333 cases of the illness had been reported across Queensland this year.