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People urged to vaccinate against whooping cough

People are urged to be vaccinated against whooping cough (Pertussis) to protect themselves from the contagious disease which is currrently in the community.

This is part of the ongoing national outbreak that started last year. Nationally there have more than 650 cases reported so far this year. In the MidCentral District Health Board area there have been 40 cases reported since November 2017, including several young infants admitted to Palmerston North Hospital.

With babies at greatest risk, medical authorities urged pregnant women to be vaccinated as they would pass their immunity on to their baby, protecting them until they could be immunised at six weeks. Vaccinations should be repeated when the child is three months and five months, and then again at four years and 11 years.

Immunisation during pregnancy is safe for mothers and babies, and the vaccine is free to pregnant women between 28-38 weeks and also free for all children. Vaccination should occur during every pregnancy.

MidCentral DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Rob Weir says getting immunised is the best prevention. This includes 10-yearly booster shots for adults in contact with babies and young children.

“Whooping cough is a contagious disease, characterised by long coughing episodes. However, adults do not always produce the characteristic whoop sound and can unknowingly pass on the disease,” Dr Weir said.

“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. It can be very serious and in some cases fatal.

“The disease is sometimes known as the 100-day cough because of the length of time it takes to recover from it.”

Dr Weir said anyone who suspects they may have whooping cough should visit their doctor as soon as possible, as antibiotics work well when they are taken early in the illness.

Anyone with questions or wanting more information about whooping cough or the vaccination can:

• talk to their GP doctor or practice nurse

• phone Healthline on 0800 611 116

• phone the Immunisation Advisory Centre on 0800 IMMUNE or 0800 466 863

• visit www.immune.org.nz or www.moh.govt.nz/immunisation


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