Outbreak of whooping cough worries board

By Alecia Rousseau

In the past year more than 1300 cases of whooping cough have been reported — with 82 cases found in babies younger than one.

The Midcentral District Health Board is urging people in the region to get vaccinated against the serious and sometimes fatal disease.

Last week, The Ministry of Health declared an outbreak and director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay, says anyone with coughs should be especially careful if they are likely to come in to contact with babies.

She says most adults don't realise they have whooping cough, but it is incredibly contagious.

The Ministry says immunisations are a crucial way for parents and pregnant women to protect their children, with babies most at risk in the first six months.

If pregnant women are vaccinated, they pass their immunity on, protecting their baby until their six-week immunisations.

From January 1 to November 10, a total of 1315 cases of whooping cough were notified around New Zealand, and 82 of these cases were babies aged less than one. Half of these babies were hospitalised.

In the MidCentral district, there have been eight cases since July, five of them in November.

Whooping cough vaccinations should be done at six weeks, three months and five months, and again at four and 11 years.

The vaccine is funded for children and is free for pregnant women between 28 and 38 weeks.

A booster vaccine is recommended every 10 years for some adults — this is not funded through the national schedule.

MDHB Medical Officer of Health Craig Thornley said the disease usually began with a runny nose and irritating cough. After a week or two, it progressed to a severe cough, with vomiting common after prolonged episodes.

The disease can be 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.

If you think you have whopping cough, it is important to visit your doctor as soon as possible as antibiotics work well when they are taken early in the illness.

- Manawatu Guardian

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