Outbreak of whooping cough gets worse

Health officials are urging Aucklanders to vaccinate their babies in light of the massive outbreak of whooping cough (Pertussis) in New Zealand’s largest city. There have been 322 cases of whooping cough reported in Auckland so far this year. This is five times higher than for the same time last year.

Notifications of whooping cough have increased rapidly with a third of this year’s cases in May alone, which shows the scale of the outbreak, says Dr Andrew Lindsay, Medical Officer of Health for Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS).

“Whooping cough is very contagious and can have severe impacts on babies and infants, it is very important to look at how you can protect your family, friends and the people you work with.”

Children under the age of one year, who are the most at risk of severe illness, have accounted for 7% of cases and 62% of hospitalisations nationally. On time vaccination is the best way to protect babies and infants, says the health body.

The free vaccination programme in children starts at six weeks then followed at three months and then at five months of age. Babies will not be protected until they have received all three doses.

“If you are not sure if your child’s vaccinations are up to date – ask your doctor,” says the health body.

Older children and adults can be a source of infection too. Older children should have further vaccinations at age four and 11, and adults living with (or expecting) a new baby should also strongly consider getting the booster.

The vaccinations at age four and 11 are free on the national immunisation schedule. Adults will normally need to pay for their boosters.

“If you have a cough – stay away from babies and infants. If your work brings you into contact with babies, infants or pregnant women then we strongly recommend getting a booster if you have not had one in the last 10 years,” says Dr Lindsay.

Nationally, there have been more than 3,400 cases reported since August 2011 when the current outbreak began.


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