Upsurge in whooping cough cases in Taranaki

23 August 2016

Taranaki DHB confirmed today that two children aged less than 6 months old have developed whooping cough and a total of 37 people have been notified with the disease in Taranaki, so far this year. Most cases are in older people and the average age being 27 years old.

Dr Jonathan Jarman said, “Whooping Cough is a frightening disease, particularly for babies and young children who might go blue or stop breathing during coughing attacks and many need to be hospitalised.”

“Whooping Cough can be life-threatening as complications are highest in this very young age group. Also, children who are unimmunised are at especially high risk of infection,” he added.

Whooping cough (or pertussis) is a highly contagious illness that is caused by a bacterium (Bordetella pertussis). It is spread by an infected person through droplets produced during coughing or sneezing, which is why it is important to keep babies away from people with coughs and to avoid coughing on babies.

Symptoms start with a runny nose and dry cough. The coughing gets worse over the next few weeks developing into attacks of coughing. The ‘whoop’ sound occurs as children draw a breath after a long coughing attack, although in some cases, there is no whooping sound. They may also vomit and stop breathing.  The symptoms tend to be worse at night.  The old name of the disease is the cough of 100 days.

Dr Jarman explained, “For older people, the disease can be “very annoying” because coughing bouts can last for weeks.”

Dr Jarman advised people should talk to their family doctor or nurse to make sure that their children are up- to-date with their immunisations, especially if there is a baby in their family or whanau.

“For infants, it takes three immunisations for whooping cough at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months to obtain immunity so it is very important to start the immunisations on time. In saying this, it’s also never too late to catch up on missed immunisations,” added Dr Jarman.

Whooping cough boosters at 4 and 11 years help to keep older children protected and stop the disease being passed on to young children and babies.

Vaccination against whooping cough is also recommended in pregnancy. Getting immunised between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy means that immunity can be passed to the baby when they are born. This immunity protects them until they get their first vaccinations at 6 weeks of age.

The Whooping Cough vaccination is free for children and pregnant women. The protection provided by childhood vaccination gradually reduces over time, leaving adolescents and adults potentially at risk of catching the disease. Adults can also receive the vaccine but it is not government funded unless they are pregnant women.


For more information please call

Cressida Gates, Media & Communications Manager, 027 703 6177



Last updated: Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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