Whooping Cough

Whooping cough (Pertussis) is a bacterial illness that is always circulating in the community.  However in November 2017, the Ministry of Health declared a national outbreak due to an increase in notification of cases. Whooping cough is highly infectious and is spread by coughing and sneezing. While anyone can be affected, in Southern DHB it is more common in people under 19 years.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent spread of disease and protect individuals. Booster vaccination for teaching staff is available at their own GP and should be considered every 10 years, particularly when working with vulnerable infants and children who are immune compromised.
It is free for:
 Pregnant women in the third trimester. This helps protect mother and baby in the first
weeks of life but needs to be repeated in each pregnancy.
 Babies at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months - on time vaccination is best
 Booster for children at 4 years and 11 years of age

Who is at risk?
Infants under the age of 12 months who are not old enough to have been fully vaccinated are most at risk of serious illness and complications requiring hospitalisation. Maori or Pacific infants are two to three times more likely to be hospitalised than those of European ethnicity.  This risk is reduced if pregnant women are vaccinated in late pregnancy (third trimester).

Children who have been fully immunised, are likely to have protective immunity to the illness for a few years and may not develop symptoms, or their symptoms may be milder. Unfortunately, older children and adults can still get and spread the infection because immunity fades over time, and catching the infection also does not provide lifelong immunity.
This includes teaching staff who may then spread disease.

Symptoms and signs of whooping cough.

Initially, a runny nose and an irritating cough, with a slight fever that may be followed by spasms of coughing some days later. The cough can last for weeks and may have a “whooping” sound during coughing fits, gasping for breath or vomiting after coughing. People are infectious from the start of the runny nose until 21 days later. Antibiotics can help reduce the infectious period if started within 18 days of onset but beyond that are unlikely to bebeneficial. Children often appear well between coughing fits and may not have all of the above signs/symptoms.

Public Health South
Dunedin: Private Bag 1921, Dunedin 9054
Ph: 03 476 9800 Fax: 03 476 9858
Invercargill: PO Box 1601, Invercargill 9840
Ph: 03 211 8500 Fax: 03 214 9070
Queenstown: PO Box 2180, Frankton, Queenstown 9349
Ph: 03 450 9156 Fax: 03 450 9169
People should stay at home when they are sick. For those diagnosed with whooping cough -
this means not going out in public places, to pre-school, to school or to work for at least the first three weeks of cough, if antibiotics are not prescribed. This period is shorter if antibiotics are used.

Your Public Health Nurse is able to provide further information and advice if needed.
Dr Marion Poore
Dr Keith Reid
Medical Officers of Health