Health officials on the North Coast of New South Wales say there is now an epidemic of whooping cough in the region and they are advising young children and those who have close contact with them to be vaccinated.
Director of the North Coast Public Health Unit Paul Corben, says 936 cases of the disease have been recorded on the New South Wales north coast so far this year compared to just over 1,000 for all of 2008, which was itself considered to be a bad year.
Mr Corben says the outbreak has now become a full-blown epidemic and has now spread to communities that have high vaccination rates.
According to Mr Corben the high rates suffered earlier on were fuelled by low vaccination rates in some communities but there is now a very high level of disease right across communities and whooping cough is making inroads into communities that have very high vaccination rates.
Mr Corben says they are very concerned that amongst that 936 cases, there are 38 children under the age of one year and it is young babies who are most vulnerable - young babies need to complete a course of vaccinations.
He says a four-week-old baby from the north coast died in March this year from whooping cough and young children and those who have close contact with them should be vaccinated to avoid further deaths.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a serious, contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis - it begins like a cold and then the characteristic cough develops which can last for months, even after antibiotic treatment is completed and the person is no longer infectious.
The 'whoop' is due to a deep breath at the end of a bout of coughing - vomiting after coughing is common.
Whooping cough is particularly dangerous for babies aged less than six months and they are affected more seriously by the disease than older children or adults and are more likely to develop complications - one in every 200 babies who contract whooping cough will die - in young babies less than six months of age, the symptoms can be severe or life threatening.
Whooping cough is highly infectious and the time from infection to appearance of symptoms for whooping cough is between six and 20 days.
A person is infectious for the first 21 days of their cough or until they have had five days of a 10-day course of antibiotics - the best way to prevent whooping cough is immunisation.
In countries where immunisation rates are high, the risk of catching whooping cough is low.