Press Release – West Coast DHB
The number of new cases of pertussis in Westland district has now reduced significantly, however, the outbreak is spreading to other districts. The majority of new suspected pertussis notifications come from the Grey District.28 October 2011
Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Update
The number of new cases of pertussis in Westland district has now reduced significantly, however, the outbreak is spreading to other districts. The majority of new suspected pertussis notifications come from the Grey District.
The numbers of pertussis cases are also rising in the Nelson-Marlborough area so this may also contribute to the spread on the Coast, particularly into the Buller district.
“It’s important to remember that the best protection against pertussis is for all babies and children to receive their childhood vaccinations on time. This is especially important for babies under the age of one, who are the most vulnerable to severe outcomes of contracting pertussis (whooping cough)” says Dr Cheryl Brunton, West Coast Medical Officer of Health.
Immunisation against pertussis is free as part of the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule at the ages of 6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months, 4 years and 11 years.
Older people can contract pertussis and pass it on to others even if they have been immunised or had the disease as a child because pertussis immunity wanes with age
The free booster vaccine available through general practices for target groups is one measure that will help contain the current outbreak of pertussis says Dr Brunton. The people eligible for the free vaccine are adults living in a household with a baby under six months of age, early childhood workers and healthcare workers who have clinical contact with babies and young children.
The reason for vaccinating these groups is to protect those most vulnerable to pertussis – the babies and young children they are in contact with. Adults outside those groups can still get the vaccine through their GP and pay for it themselves.
Between 1 May 2011 and 21 October 2011 there have been 250 notifications of suspected pertussis received by Community & Public Health’s West Coast Office. To date, 130 people have been confirmed as having the disease. This is an increase of a further 19 suspected cases on the previous week.
Cases of the disease have been notified from age nine months up to 73 years, with the highest rates being children under the age of ten years.
Besides vaccination, 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 school or work if they are unwell.