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Whooping cough in MidCentral DHB area

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A special report that was yesterday released by the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee (CYMRC) discusses how rates of whooping cough can be reduced by immunising women during pregnancy and improving education about the illness.

​The report Mortality and morbidity of pertussis in children and young people in New Zealand: Special Report 2002-2014, shows rates of whooping cough (also known as pertussis) in New Zealand using data from 2002-2014, for children and young people under the age of 25.

Whooping cough is a contagious disease, characterised by long coughing episodes. It can be very serious and in some cases fatal.

Nearly 13,000 cases of whooping cough were recorded during the report period, an average of 992 cases a year, including eight deaths throughout New Zealand. Seven deaths were in infants under three-months-old. There were 1515 hospital admissions and more than three quarters were for infants under six-months-old.

MidCentral Medical Officer of Health Dr Rob Weir said: “We have reviewed the number of cases of whooping cough in people aged under 25 years in the MidCentral DHB area between 2002 and 2014. During that time there were:
• 548 notified cases of confirmed, probable or suspected whooping cough. Sixty-five of these notifications were in babies under one year.
• 47 hospital admissions in people with whooping cough. Thirty-seven of these admissions were in babies under one year.

Dr Weir said: “The disease usually starts with a runny nose and an irritating cough and 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.

Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee chair Dr Felicity Dumble, says one of the easiest and safest ways to prevent or reduce the severity of the illness is to immunise mothers during pregnancy. 

She said: "All pregnant women should receive a booster shot in their third trimester and should be given information by their GP or lead maternity carer about where and how to get one. Many women don't know a booster shot is required.”

Immunisation during pregnancy is safe for mothers and babies, and is now funded during the third trimester.

"GPs and midwives play an important part in education about whooping cough, so it is crucial they take the lead in informing pregnant women about the need for immunisation.”

Dr Weir also reinforced the importance of vaccination saying: “Obtaining the vaccination on time is the best method of protection.”

If you want more information about the vaccination contact your doctor or Healthline on 0800 611 116.

The full report is available on the Health Quality and Safety Commission's website: 

Contact: Communications Unit (06) 350-8945

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