Help fight respiratory illnesses this winter

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Public Health Nurse Teresa McGorm and Dr Priya Janagaraj

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Darling Downs residents are being encouraged to protect themselves against respiratory illnesses such as influenza and whooping cough (pertussis) this winter.

There has been ongoing rise of whooping cough cases in the Darling Downs region. The cases have been predominantly occurring in school aged children.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 180 cases of whooping cough have been confirmed in the Darling Downs Health region.

As the disease has been presenting mildly in school aged children, students have been attending school and community events. Unfortunately, this is causing people to unknowingly spread the illness to vulnerable people in our community.

It is important for parents to get their children tested if they have an ongoing cough and if whooping cough is found, to get treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of spreading the illness. A person with whooping cough is infectious for 21 days after the onset of a cough or five days after commencing antibiotics.

Darling Downs Public Health Physician, Dr Priya Janagaraj said parents are reminded to keep their children at home as per the Queensland Health Time Out recommendations to protect our infants.

“It is especially important for infants and pregnant mothers to get vaccinated as the disease can cause severe illness in infants under 6 months.

“The whooping cough vaccine is available for all pregnant mothers from 20 weeks onwards.

“It is also a timely reminder to get the flu vaccine in preparation for the winter months.  The best way to avoid getting sick is to talk to your GP about receiving a flu or whooping cough vaccination

“Immunisation is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza this winter."

Darling Downs Public Health Physician, Dr Priya Janagaraj

“Vaccinations can take up to two weeks to work, which is why we’re encouraging all Darling Downs residents to roll up their sleeves sooner rather than later.

“This year Queensland Health is providing a free flu vaccine to everyone above the age of six-months, so I’d encourage all members of our community to visit their GP or pharmacist and get the influenza jab soon,” said Dr Janagaraj.

Influenza can cause severe illness in pregnant mothers and it important that pregnant women get vaccinated early at any time during their pregnancy.

Influenza and whooping cough are both highly contagious, infections that can affect the upper airways and lungs. In addition to receiving the vaccination, there are some simple steps that can be taken to help fight respiratory illnesses.

These include washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you are sick.

Some members of the community are more at risk from influenza and complications, these groups include people 65 years and older, those who are pregnant, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, children, and people with underlying medical conditions.