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Whooping cough outbreak a reminder to immunise babies

4 December 2012

Ongoing whooping cough outbreak a reminder to get babies immunised on time

Parents in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts are urged to ensure their babies receive their first immunisations on time at six weeks to protect them from whooping cough (pertussis).

An outbreak of whooping cough started in the South Island last year and has spread across New Zealand during 2012. Toi Te Ora – Public Health Service has been notified of 243 people with whooping cough in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts since the start of this year, with 14 people requiring hospitalisation.

Whooping cough is highly infectious and is caused by bacteria that are spread through the community by coughing and sneezing in the same way as colds and influenza. Symptoms start with a runny nose, and dry cough. Coughing gets worse over the next few weeks developing into attacks of coughing which sometimes end in vomiting or with breathlessness. The ‘whoop’ sound sometimes occurs especially as a baby draws a breath after a long coughing attack. Babies under one year are most at risk of serious complications from the illness.

“Whooping cough is a preventable disease. Immunisation for whooping cough is part of the routine childhood immunisation programme and we strongly recommend parents get their babies immunised on time,” says Dr Phil Shoemack, Medical Officer of Health. Whooping cough immunisations are given when a baby is 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months old and boosters are given to children at 4 years and 11 years of age. “On-time immunisation gives babies the best protection. For parents of older children it’s a good reminder to check their children are up to date with immunisations. It’s never too late to catch up,” says Dr Shoemack.

Adults who have a cough and work with young children should be especially vigilant in case they have whooping cough. "If you’re concerned about a cough stay away from babies and young children and talk to your doctor about whether it could be whooping cough," says Dr Shoemack.

Whooping cough immunisation is free for your child. Contact your family doctor or practice nurse for more information or to make an appointment for immunisation.

For more information call 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) or visit our website


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