Press Release – West Coast District Health
The majority of new suspected cases of pertussis on the West Coast now come from the Grey district with sporadic cases being reported from Westland and Buller districts.4 November 2011
Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Update
The majority of new suspected cases of pertussis on the West Coast now come from the Grey district with sporadic cases being reported from Westland and Buller districts.
Between 1 May 2011 and 28 October 2011 there have been 268 notifications of suspected pertussis received by Community & Public Health’s West Coast Office. To date, 140 people have been confirmed as having the disease. This is an increase of a further 18 suspected cases on the previous week. The difference between the number of notifications and the numbers of confirmed cases indicates that general practices are being vigilant when patients present with a cough of more than two week’s duration.
Babies under the age of one are the most vulnerable to severe outcomes of contracting pertussis (whooping cough).
“It’s important to remember that the best protection against pertussis is for all babies and children to receive their childhood vaccinations on time,” 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.
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.