Source: Stuff, 6 January 2017
An illness dubbed the "100-day cough" is infecting some
adults who have had a full dose of vaccinations.
Whooping cough can be deadly in young babies and, while the
symptoms are less severe in adults, the hacking cough, vomiting,
and tiredness can be debilitating.
Medical officer of health Stephen Palmer said there
were 15 confirmed cases in Karori between December 10 and December
23. Two of those were adults, one was a 13-year-old, one was 14,
and the rest were aged between three and 11.
Nine of those affected were from Karori Normal School, where
parents were sent a notice.
"Regional Public Health has had several notifications recently
of confirmed cases of whooping cough (pertussis) in adults and
children," the notice said.
"The bacteria are circulating in the community, which
potentially can put young babies and small children at risk of this
highly infectious disease.
"In children under one year of age, this can be very serious.
Women in the last four weeks of pregnancy are advised to see
their GP or lead maternity carer."
The Dominion Post is aware of one other diagnosed
case in an adult outside Karori who was initially
misdiagnosed before being told she had whooping cough. She
also developed pneumonia and suffered vomiting, tiredness, and
a persistent cough lasting two months and counting.
Palmer said immunisation was effective in
stopping whooping cough, but it wore off as people got
older, "more so than the other ones you are immunised
Those most at-risk were middle-aged adults who
were around young children, and they should consider
getting a booster shot, he said. "Kids have caught it from adults,
then spread it."
Doctors were supposed to notify Regional Public Health if they
suspected cases, but a laboratory test from a
throat swab was needed to confirm a diagnosis, and laboratories
also notified confirmed cases.
Karori Medical Centre GP Jeff Lowe said whooping cough levels in
the community had been high for a "number of years".
"The important thing is people remain vigilant so we can
stop the spread."
In April 2016, Starship paediatric doctor Fiona Miles
warned New Zealand was in line for a whooping cough
Whooping cough was always present in the community,
but tended to work on a four-year cycle. A doubling of cases, and a
big surge in Australian cases, meant an epidemic was highly likely,
Up to 70 per cent of babies aged under one who
caught whooping cough would end up in hospital.
About one in 100 would die.
"We lose about one a year. This is a preventable disease so we
shouldn't be losing anyone, " Miles said.
There had been some success in getting mothers and grandparents
immunised, but more needed to be done to make fathers realise they
also posed a risk.
She said most whooping cough deaths were babies
who were too young to be vaccinated, making it important for
parents and caregivers to be vaccinated so they did not pass on the
"We have had some where the parents have chosen not to vaccinate
[their children] and they very much regret it when they see their
children struggling to breathe, or dying."
The Ministry of Health said whooping cough was most likely to
kill in the first year of life, and infants continued to die from
it despite state-of-the-art intensive care.
"It is estimated that in the developed world three times more
deaths are due to pertussis than are reported."
WHAT IS WHOOPING COUGH?
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a common and potentially
deadly childhood illness caused by the
bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
Whooping cough is usually characterised by a cough lasting
longer than two weeks with spasms of coughing ending in
vomiting or difficulty breathing. This is often accompanied by
a whooping sound. Adults can also get whooping cough but usually do
not have the classical whooping and vomiting after bouts of
The incubation period is between six and 20 days, average
is 14 days. Whooping cough may start with a runny nose which then
proceeds to coughing.
The pertussis vaccine doesn't last forever, so people who
haven't been immunised since they were children have low immunity
and if there's an outbreak then it's easy for it to be transmitted
Whooping cough vaccines should be done at six weeks, three
months and five months of age.
The vaccination is funded for all children and is also free for
pregnant women between 28-38 weeks.