Press Release – Westcoast DHB
With no new suspected cases of pertussis reported from Westland in the past week, health officials are hopeful that the pertussis outbreak there has run its course. Elsewhere on the West Coast new cases are being reported from Grey and Buller districts, …11 November 2011
Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Update
With no new suspected cases of pertussis reported from Westland in the past week, health officials are hopeful that the pertussis outbreak there has run its course. Elsewhere on the West Coast new cases are being reported from Grey and Buller districts, generally associated with family or household clusters.
Between 1 May 2011 and 4 November 2011 there have been 283 notifications of suspected pertussis received by Community & Public Health’s West Coast Office. To date, 148 people have been confirmed as having the disease. This is an increase of a further 15 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.
This pertussis outbreak is significant with the number of notified cases on the West Coast being over 20x higher than the usual numbers expected in the New Zealand population and 4x higher than any surrounding areas. Children under the age of ten years continue to have the highest rates of the disease.
Babies under the age of one are the most vulnerable to severe outcomes of contracting pertussis (whooping cough).
“Childhood vaccination is the best protection and especially for pertussis it is important for all babies and children to receive their immunisation on time,” says Dr Cheryl Brunton, West Coast Medical Officer of Health.
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
To help contain the current outbreak of pertussis a free booster vaccine is available for 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 vaccine is available through general practices and helps protect those most vulnerable to pertussis – the babies and young children they are in contact with.” says Dr Brunton.
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.