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Rise in Whooping Cough Prompts Urgent Vaccination Reminder

Press Release – Auckland District Health Board

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service is recommending that all parents check their children are fully immunised against whooping cough, also known as pertussis.21 December 2011

Rise in Whooping Cough Prompts Urgent Vaccination Reminder

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service is recommending that all parents check their children are fully immunised against whooping cough, also known as pertussis.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Andrew Lindsay says whooping cough is very infectious and spreads easily by coughing and sneezing.

“The Auckland region, like the rest of the country, has seen a higher than usual number of notifications of whooping cough cases in recent months. In November, there were about 30 notifications and December is looking likely to have a similar or greater number. This compares to the month of August with 12 notifications and 17 notified cases in October.

“Immunisation is the best protection against whooping cough. It is important to note that older children and adults can get whooping cough and pass it on to babies and young children. Children under 1 year old have the highest risk of serious complications including breathing difficulties, hospitalisation, and death.”

“Babies should be immunised at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 5 months. In babies, delays in being immunised against whooping cough increase the risk of hospitalisation by four times, so it is important that immunisations are given on time. Children need booster immunisations at 4 and 11 years old.”

“Protection from whooping cough decreases over time, so you can catch whopping cough even if you have been immunised or had the infection before. It is important for children to get their booster immunisations at 4 and 11 years to keep their protection up during their school years. Adults who are in contact with babies may also have a booster.”

“Whooping cough starts with a runny nose and dry cough. Coughing gets worse over the next few weeks developing into prolonged coughing attacks. In babies and children these long coughing attacks often end with a ‘whoop’ sound when drawing a breath or with vomiting. Babies with severe whooping cough can turn blue or stop breathing If you think you or your child might have whooping cough, see your family doctor without delay.”

Protecting Your Family
“Whooping cough spreads very easily. Things you can do to protect your family include:

• Make sure all your children have had their immunisations – see your GP if you are unsure
• Ensure immunisations are given on time – this is very important for protecting young babies
• Talk to your GP if you are pregnant or have a new baby about your options for protecting your baby through giving booster immunisations to your family / whanau
• Keep your young baby away from anyone with a runny nose, sneezing, or coughing
• Whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics to stop it spreading though your family/whanau / community / preschool / school
• Keep children with whooping cough away from day care, kindy, kohanga reo or preschool, school, and community gatherings for three weeks after the bad coughing attacks first started. However, if they are diagnosed by their GP and started on antibiotics, they can return after they have taken the first five days of a 14-day course.”

“Whooping cough immunisation is free for babies and children. Adult immunisation is not currently publicly-funded.”

Immunisation Information for Parents
Parents or caregivers with questions about whooping cough can call the Immunisation Advisory Centre free on 0800 Immune (466863) or see for the facts on immunisation.

Parents can check their child’s complete immunisation history by checking their child’s Plunket (Well Child) book or calling their GP or practice nurse for the information.

Immunisation is at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months, with booster doses given at 4 and 11 years. Babies who do not receive their immunisations on time have a four fold increased risk of being hospitalised (Grant C et al, BMJ April 2003). This means that babies who are unimmunised or late for their immunisation are at particularly high risk.


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