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Whooping cough warning for adults -

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Whooping cough warning for adults

Bronwyn Herbert reported this story on Saturday, December 10, 2011 08:12:00

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Infectious disease specialists are warning that the whooping cough epidemic,
which has hit Australia in recent years, isn't over. Although it's young babies who are most at
risk, adults who can spread the disease are now being advised to be revaccinated.

Bronwyn Herbert reports.

BRONWYN HERBERT: More than 30,000 cases of whooping cough were reported last year in Australia,
more than any other country in the world.

Toni McCaffery from the north coast of New South Wales lost her month-old baby girl, Dana, to the
highly infectious disease

TONI MCCAFFERY: Oh, something that started as a blocked nose, that was explained to me was just a
harmless head cold, had my daughter in life support within five days of going into hospital.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Toni McCaffery says she had no idea that as a parent she should have been
vaccinated against the disease.

TONI MCCAFFERY: I hadn't had a booster and the most heart-wrenching thing for us is that we were
not warned, there was meant to be a yellow warning sticker go on Dana's blue book in the hospital,
we didn't get one.

We didn't know about adults requiring boosters, nor did any of the adults around us, none of our
family or friends knew and we also didn't know that the area I was living in was in the grip of an

BRONWYN HERBERT: There's now a big push from infectious disease specialists to ensure adults are

Professor Peter McIntyre is the director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research.

PETER MCINTYRE: Whooping cough in adults can be very severe and it would be recommended that rather
than getting say a tetanus booster, if you need a tetanus booster for some reason, you'd be better
off having one that also includes for whooping cough.

BRONWYN HERBERT: He says whooping cough is different to many other infectious diseases like
measles, because immunity after vaccination wanes.

PETER MCINTYRE: So whether you've had whooping cough germ and got the illness or whether you've
been vaccinated, either way your immunity can fall off over time.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Professor McIntyre says for now adult booster shots are one of few weapons to
fight the disease but he says researchers are looking into more direct ways to protect babies.

PETER MCINTYRE: There's this study that I'm actually the leader of that's occurring in four cities
in Australia and that's looking at giving newborn babies a vaccine, so giving it to them as early
as possible to see if we can protect babies earlier that way.

And there's also the possibility of mothers actually being immunised during the pregnancy, and the
idea there being that those antibodies that she gets from the vaccine go across to the baby and can
potentially protect the baby before the baby is immunised itself.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The study's initial results are due early next year.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Bronwyn Herbert reporting. And there'll be a special segment on whooping cough
on ABC News 24's Tonic program at 9:30 on Sunday night.