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Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Update

7 October 2011

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Update

A free booster vaccine will be available to health care and early childhood education staff along with parents of a baby under the age of six months to help combat the current pertussis outbreak on the West Coast. Access to the free vaccine will be through their General Practice.

Dr Cheryl Brunton, the West Coast Medical Officer of Health, says the very young are the most vulnerable to the potentially severe outcomes of contracting pertussis (whooping cough) so we are asking those who most commonly come into contact with this vulnerable group to protect them by having the booster vaccine themselves.

The booster vaccine is available for other adults who feel they might need it through their general practice however there will be a cost associated with this.

Because pertussis immunity wanes with age, older people can contract pertussis and pass it on to others even if they have been immunised or had the disease as a child.

Between 1st May 2011 and 30 September 2011 there have been 201 notifications of suspected pertussis received by Community & Public Health’s West Coast Office. To date, 90 have been confirmed as having the disease. This is an increase of a further 26 suspected cases on the previous week. The outbreak continues to be centred in the Westland district with most cases occurring in children.

Parents are urged to keep children home from school or preschool and to stay at home from work themselves, if they develop a persistent cough. “The incubation period for pertussis ranges from 5-21 days. So if someone goes to work, school or pre-school with a persistent cough, by the time they find out they have pertussis the damage has probably been done as far as spreading it to other children and workmates.

Schools and early childhood centres outside the Westland district will be contacted by West Coast Medical Officer of Health, Dr Cheryl Brunton and advised of the precautions they should take next term.

The other steps people can take to help protect themselves and their families against pertussis and other respiratory diseases are:

• Covering coughs and sneezes
• Washing and drying hands thoroughly (20 seconds washing and 20 seconds drying) at times throughout the day particularly before eating and after being with someone who is coughing.
• Staying away from preschool, school or work if they are unwell.


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