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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3434 ..

Whooping cough

(Question No 852)

Mr Smyth: Asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, in relation to whooping cough cases:

(1) When was the Minister first made aware of an increase in whooping cough cases in the ACT;

(2) At what point in the period 1 January to 20 June did last year's figure surpass this year's figure;

(3) Why was a warning about an increase in cases not issued earlier than August;

(4) I have been informed that Daramalan College was closed for some time due to fears of contagious flu, can the Minister confirm if this is the case;

(5) If the school was closed for some time, was this because of the flu or did it have anything to do with whooping cough also;

(6) Have there been any health concerns regarding the flu or whooping cough in any other ACT schools, if so, please provide details.

Mr Corbell

: The answer to the member's question is:

(1) Monitoring whooping cough (pertussis) is a routine matter for the Chief Health Officer. Outbreaks occur every year or two. Media releases on the increase in pertussis were issued on 28 May and 25 June 2003, as well as an article in the Canberra Times Doctor's Orders column on 29 June. Further media releases were provided on 8 and 25 August. These are all available on the website at: = sp&did=10002208, and were provided to the Minister's office at the time of issue. The Deputy Chief Health Officer discussed management of this outbreak with the Minister on 13 August. A formal briefing on this matter would only be developed if there was reason to believe that ACT Health's outbreak management or immunisation strategies were failing. This is not the case.

(2) From the middle of May the number of daily notifications, were increasing with a few schools having two or more cases. Until the end of May there were 27 cases in 2003 compared to 29 cases in 2002. In June 2003 there were 26 additional cases, compared with three in 2003.

(3) The first media release in relation to pertussis was on 28 May, followed by others on 25 June, 8 and 25 August 2003. Specific information was sent out to General Practitioners and schools on 27 May, 25 June, 8 and 25 August. All schools and workplaces have also been individually contacted to advise of confirmed cases. Childcare and health care providers were advised at various times during August, most recently on 25 August.

(4) Neither the high school nor the college has been closed due to illness. Following a media enquiry, ACT Health contacted the principal of Daramalan College. The Department has received great cooperation from the principal in assessing absenteeism data. Reasons for absenteeism are not recorded at the school, however given the nature of communicable diseases at any given time in the ACT, and particularly in winter, school absenteeism will be affected by seasonal fluctuations in illness, including 'flu-like' illnesses. Absenteeism at Daramalan is consistent with this seasonal pattern.

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