By: Carmen Hall

With Tauranga in the grip of a whooping cough outbreak, health authorities are warning parents to immunise their babies from the potentially fatal disease, also known as pertussis.

In 2017 Tauranga recorded 75 cases of whooping cough. This year to date, there have been 155 cases.

Toi Te Ora Public Health Organisation chief medical officer Dr Phil Shoemack said it affected babies the most and, in extreme cases, they could die.

”Babies can struggle to breathe, and it’s very distressing, particularly in the under one-year-olds. Often they are admitted to hospital as it affects their ability to breath because they have smaller lung capacity.”

”It can be life-threatening … and there have been documented instances where children under the age of one have died.”

New Zealand data from the immunisation schedule revealed only 85 to 90 per cent of children were vaccinated against whooping cough, which required three shots at different ages from six weeks to five months and one before they started school.

Dr Shoemack said more parents needed to immunise their babies.

Antibiotics could be administered but were used mainly to stop the person infecting others, he said.

A vaccine and booster shots were also available for adults, older people and pregnant women, which Shoemack said was advisable as immunity was not lifelong.

Tauranga City Councillor Rick Curach recalled experiencing whooping cough, saying it was “horrible”.

“It’s just the nagging cough. It was horrible in that I could continue to work but socialising, that was difficult because of the cough.”

Curach said the cough also kept him awake and he was exhausted from the lack of sleep.

He had not been vaccinated and encouraged others to be immunised.

Whooping cough symptoms start with a runny nose and dry cough. Coughing gets worse during the next few weeks and develops into attacks of coughing. Children often gasp for air, and some make a “whooping” sound. They may also vomit after coughing attacks.

In older children and adults, whooping cough may present as an unexplained persistent cough that goes on for more than two weeks. The cough may last for up to three months, and in some circles, it is known as ‘the 100-days cough’.

By the numbers
Reported cases in Tauranga
* 2014 – 16
* 2015 – 11
* 2016 – 24
* 2017 – 75
* 2018 to date – 155

Reported cases in Western Bay
* 2014 – 12
* 2015 – 1
*2016 – 12
*2017 – 22
*2018 – 50
– Source: Toi Te Ora Public Health

Whooping Cough
* It is also known as pertussis and is an extremely contagious disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
* Whooping cough is also called ‘the 100-days cough’ in some countries.

Source: NZ Herald


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