Medical authorities across the MidCentral District Health Board region are urging people to be vaccinated against whooping cough (Pertussis), as cases in the district increase, along with a national surge in numbers.
Whooping cough is a contagious disease, characterised by long coughing episodes. It can be very serious and in some cases fatal.
The Ministry of Health says it’s important to raise awareness of timely immunisations as a crucial way for parents/whānau and pregnant women to protect their babies and children against whooping cough. Babies are at greatest risk when they are very young, particularly in the first six months until they have had their third whooping cough vaccination to ensure protection. When pregnant women are vaccinated, they pass their immunity on to their baby, protecting them until they are able to be immunised at six weeks.
From 1 January–10 November 2017, a total of 1315 cases of whooping cough were notified around the country. Of these cases, 82 were babies aged less than one year old. Half of these babies were hospitalised.
In the MidCentral district there have been eight cases since July – five of them in November.
Getting immunised, and on time is the best prevention, and includes adults getting booster shots.
Whooping Cough vaccinations should be done at six weeks, three months, and five months, and again at four years and 11 years.
The vaccine is funded for all children, and is also free to pregnant women between 28-38 weeks. A booster vaccine is recommended every 10 years for some adults but is not funded through the national schedule: these groups are lead maternity caregivers, healthcare workers exposed to infants, household contacts of newborns and early childhood workers.
MidCentral District Health Board Medical Officer of Health Craig Thornley says: “The disease usually starts with a runny nose and an irritating cough. It is at its most infectious at this time. After one to two weeks it typically progresses to a severe cough in infants and children. The coughing aids spread of disease at this time. Vomiting is common after a prolonged period of coughing. The disease can be particularly severe in babies and can result in difficulty feeding and breathing. Adults do not always produce the characteristic whoop sound and can unknowingly pass the disease on. The disease is sometimes known as the 100-day cough because of the length of time it takes to recover from it. If you think you might have whooping cough, it is important to visit your doctor as soon as possible since antibiotics work well when they are taken early in the illness.”
Contact: Communications Unit (06) 350-8945