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Don’t give your loved ones whooping cough this Christmas



Friday 20 December 2013

Don’t give your loved ones whooping cough this Christmas

Auckland has been experiencing an epidemic of whooping cough (pertussis) since 2012. This year alone, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has been notified of 752 cases, including 95 cases in children aged under one. Unfortunately, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Michael Hale is urging parents not to give their children whooping cough for Christmas.

“Christmas is a time where extended families often get together to celebrate. This increases the risk of infectious diseases spreading faster and more widely.

“80 percent of children with whooping cough catch it from a member of their household or extended family. Children – particularly those under one – are especially at risk of breathing difficulties and pneumonia, which may lead to hospitalisation and intensive care.”

Whooping cough symptoms include fever, sneezing, and severe coughing attacks that can last several weeks. Dr Hale recommends that parents keep young children away from people with these symptoms. People with whooping cough remain infectious until they’ve had five days of antibiotics or three weeks of coughing attacks.

“Whooping cough is very infectious. If you’re feeling unwell, see your doctor. Don’t share your bugs with your children or those who are pregnant. Keep them safe by keeping your distance.”

The whooping cough vaccine is part of the free routine childhood immunisation programme, and during epidemics like this it saves lives. Babies should receive their immunisations at six weeks, three months and five months. Boosters are then given at four and eleven years.

One of the best things pregnant women can do to protect themselves and their new born babies is to get a free whooping cough booster when they are 28-38 weeks pregnant. The increase in immunity from this booster is able to pass on some much needed protection to their new born child.

“If your children’s immunisations are not up to date,” says Dr Hale, “then they’re not protected. Please talk to your doctor or practice nurse about catch up immunisations.”


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