Press Release – West Coast District Health
The pertussis outbreak currently being experienced continues to infect more people, particularly children on the West Coast.Media Release
14 December 2011
Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Update
The pertussis outbreak currently being experienced continues to infect more people, particularly children on the West Coast.
After a decline associated with the last school holidays the number of new cases continues to rise, particularly in the Grey and Buller districts. There have been no new cases in the Westland district in the past six weeks.
Between 1 May 2011 and 5 December 2011 there have been 359 notifications of suspected pertussis received by Community & Public Health’s West Coast Office. To date, 203 people have been confirmed as having the disease. 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.
Children under the age of ten years continue to have the highest rates of the disease. However, disease rates in children under one year, the age group most vulnerable to severe complications of pertussis, remain low.
“Although the current outbreak may be largely over in Westland, it still continues in the Grey and Buller Districts. The best protection against pertussis is for babies and children to receive their childhood vaccinations 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.
At the moment, on the West Coast, adults in the following groups can still get a free pertussis booster immunisation from their general practice:
• Parents and adults living in the same household as an infant under six months of age
• Front-line healthcare workers in contact with children under the age of one year
• Early childhood education workers.
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.