Source: Stuff, 17 July 2017
The potential for a whooping cough epidemic has health
professionals calling for vaccinations.
As cases of whooping cough spike across New Zealand,
MidCentral District Health Board's medical officer
of health warns an epidemic could be on its way.
Dr Rob Weir said the last epidemic was in 2012-13, and
because the respiratory infection worked on a four-year cycle,
another epidemic "could come at any time now".
The Ministry of Health confirmed whooping cough rates have been
higher this year than the same period in 2015 and 2016, with an
increase in recent weeks.
There have been 13 cases of whooping cough so far this year in
the area covered by the MidCentral District Health Board, which
includes Palmerston North and the Horowhenua, Manawatu and Tararua
Nationally, there were 602 reported cases by June.
Director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay said it
was unclear at this stage whether the next epidemic was
starting, but it was possible.
"Whooping cough can be very serious in the first year of life.
Around half of babies who caught whooping cough in the last
epidemic needed hospital treatment," she said.
Weir said people needed to take precautions and
protect themselves and their children.
The best prevention was to get immunised.
"The disease usually starts with a runny nose and an irritating
cough. It is at its most infectious at this time.
"After one to two weeks it typically progresses to a severe
cough in infants and children."
Weir said coughing helped spread of the disease, and
vomiting was common after a prolonged period of coughing.
"The disease can be particularly severe in babies and can result
in difficulty feeding and breathing."
The vaccine was funded for children as part of the New Zealand
For children, vaccinations should be done at 6 weeks,
3 months, and 5 months, and again at 4 years and 11
They were also free to women pregnant for between 28 and 38
Rates of whooping cough could be reduced by immunising
women during pregnancy.
Weir said adults did not always produce the characteristic
"whoop" sound and they could pass the disease on without knowing
People who were concerned should visit their doctor as soon as
possible for antibiotics to be taken early on in the illness,
During the last national epidemic, there were 187 cases in the
MidCentral DHB area in 2012 and 110 cases during 2013.
"Obtaining the vaccination on time is the best method of
protection," he said.
More information is available from Healthline on 0800 611