Be aware of bad coughs this holiday season, especially if you have a baby under one-year old. The Ministry of Health has declared a national outbreak of whooping cough following the reporting of 1,315 cases of the highly contagious disease since the beginning of this year. Caused by the Bordatella pertussis bacteria that damage our breathing tubes, whooping cough is easily spread by coughing and sneezing and is potentially very serious for young babies. Anyone with a cough should be especially careful if they’re likely to be in contact with babies because most adults don’t realise they have whooping cough and therefore are a potential source of infection.
⚜️If you’re pregnant, get your free Boostrix whooping cough immunisation between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy and take your baby for their free immunisations when they’re six weeks, three months and five months old
⚜️Make sure all your children are up to date with their immunisations
⚜️Keep your baby away from anyone with a cough
⚜️If you have a cough yourself, stay away from babies
⚜️If you’ve got a cough that won’t go away, see your doctor
If you’re pregnant, it’s important you get your free whooping cough booster vaccination, Boostrix, between 28 and 38 weeks of your pregnancy. At this time, you can pass your immunity on to your baby, helping protect them until they’re old enough to be vaccinated themselves. Immunising against whooping cough during pregnancy protects about 90% of babies in their first few weeks of life. Read more about the benefits of immunisation here
It’s also recommended that before baby is born, all babies’ close family contacts have a booster dose of pertussis vaccine to reduce the spread of the disease. Older siblings should also be up to date with their immunisations. People with whooping cough are infectious from six days after exposure to the bacteria, when symptoms are like a normal cold, to three weeks after the ‘whooping’ cough begins – unless they’re treated with antibiotics.
If your work involves regular contact with infants, or if you live with or care for infants under 12 months of age, even if the baby has been fully immunised, you should also get a booster. And be aware that because protection wanes over time, people can get whooping cough some years later, even if they’ve been immunised or have had it before. That’s why it’s important for four and 11-year-olds to have booster immunisations.
Watching your baby suffering through the symptoms of whooping cough can be frightening for parents. Your little one may not be able to feed or breathe properly, and, more seriously, may become so ill they need to go to hospital, or ends up with serious complications such as pneumonia and brain damage. Babies who do not receive on-time doses of the pertussis vaccine at the scheduled times are five times more likely to be hospitalised with pertussis than those babies who are vaccinated on time. Around half the babies who catch pertussis before the age of 12 months require hospitalisation and 1 or 2 in 100 of those hospitalised die from pertussis infection. Severe coughing can temporarily stop the oxygen supply to the brain (hypoxia) In around 2 in 1000 children, pertussis leads to permanent brain damage, paralysis, deafness or blindness. Secondary infections such as pneumonia and ear infections can also occur.
Find out more about what immunisations are recommended for your baby on the New Zealand Immunisation Schedule