Parents in the Lakes and Bay of Plenty health board districts are urged to ensure their babies receive their first immunisations on time at six weeks to protect them from whooping cough.
An outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) started in the South Island last year and has spread across New
Zealand during 2012. Toi Te Ora _ Public Health Service has been notified of 243 people with whooping cough in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts since the start of this year, with 14 people requiring hospitalisation.
Whooping cough is highly infectious and is caused by bacteria that are spread through the community by coughing and sneezing in the same way as colds and influenza. Symptoms start with a runny nose and dry cough.
Coughing gets worse over the next few weeks developing into attacks of coughing which some times end in vomiting or with breathlessness. The 'whoop' sound sometimes occurs especially as a baby draws a breath after a long coughing attack.
Babies under 1 are most at risk of serious complications from the illness.
"Whooping cough is a preventable disease. Immunisation for whooping cough is part of the routine child hood immunisation programme and we strongly recommend parents get their babies immunised on time,'' says Dr Phil Shoemack, Medical Officer of Health.
Whooping cough immunisations are given when a baby is 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months old and boosters are given to children at 4 and 11.
"On-time immunisation gives babies the best protection. For parents of older children it's a good reminder to
check their children are up to date with immunisations. It's never too late to catch up,'' Dr Shoemack said.
Adults who have a cough and work with young children should be especially vigilant in case they have whooping cough.
"If you're concerned about a cough stay away from babies and young children and talk to your doctor about whether it could be whooping cough,'' Dr Shoemack said.
Whooping cough immunisation is free for your child. Contact your family doctor or practice nurse for more information or to make an appointment for immunisation.
For more information call 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) or visit our website www.ttophs.govt.nz/whooping_cough.