“If you’re anti-immunisation/anti-logic/anti-duty of care to your society as a whole, then feel free to take a look at this picture of my son in hospital right now at 4 weeks old with whooping cough — and then come and tell me how you think immunisation is a bad thing.”
Greg Hughes posted this message along with a picture of his son Riley four days ago. Tragically, the baby boy lost his fight with the disease yesterday.
Riley John Hughes died from pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, at Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth on Tuesday, news agencies have reported.
While his parent were pro-immunisation the baby boy was too young to have started the infant vaccination program that might have protected him from the disease. Western Australian babies began this vaccination program from two months of age.
Riley is the first death from whooping cough in this region of Australia since 2011.
His grieving parents have stated that they don’t want their son’s death to be “in vain.” Instead they want to “be the drivers of change” in the treatment and management of the illness.
“We are devastated to let everyone know our gorgeous sweet month-old son Riley John Hughes lost his battle with whooping cough at Princess Margaret Hospital earlier today,” Riley’s mother wrote on her Facebook page.
“He passed away peacefully in our arms after a tough fight. The staff at PMH were amazing and did everything they could to save his little life but the whooping cough was too severe.
“RIP Riley. Forever in our hearts,” she ended her heartfelt post, which has struck a cord with parents throughout the country and has been shared 7,500 times.
Only last week, Riley’s heartbroken mother urged her friends to consider immunising their children when the baby boy was admitted to hospital.
“If you haven’t been immunised against whooping cough (pertussis) please consider getting it done. Heartbreaking to watch 4 week old Riley struggle with it at PMH please keep him in your thoughts!!!”
Riley’s family has now set up a Facebook page in his honour which they hope to use to spread their message and drive change.
The Department of Health released a statement saying it does not know how the child contracted the respiratory disease. According to the department’s notifiable disease report, there have been 244 cases of whooping cough in WA in the year to date, compared to 292 cases for the same period last year and 232 cases in the first 10 weeks of 2013.
Whooping cough is part of the routine vaccination schedule for babies at two months, four months and six months of age.