Coast pertussis cases on the rise

Friday 9 March 2018Media release3 minutes to read

Pregnant women and babies under one need to be vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough), Medical Officer of Health Dr Cheryl Brunton says.

“There is a national epidemic of pertussis and the number of cases on the Coast is beginning to rise.  Babies and children under the age of one are most at risk of serious illness and complications from pertussis,” she says.

“On time vaccination of babies and children against pertussis is their best protection against the disease.  The vaccine is safe and free for pregnant women and can protect their babies until they are old enough to be vaccinated”

In February, six cases of pertussis were notified to community and Public Health: Five cases in Buller and one in Grey district.  In the week ending 2 March, there were two cases in Buller, one in Grey and one in Westland.

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a highly infectious disease that is spread by coughing and sneezing. It's caused by bacteria which damage the breathing tubes.

The symptoms usually appear around a week after infection.  Pertussis tends to develop in 3 stages: 

Initial stage (catarrhal stage), symptoms include:

  • a runny nose
  • sneezing
  • slight fever
  • a mild irritating cough
  • feeling generally unwell

This stage is when you're most infectious. It lasts 1 or 2 weeks.

Second stage (paroxysmal stage):

  • Coughing fits (paroxysms) are the main symptom in this stage. A paroxysm is a spasm of coughing followed by a big breath in or high-pitched ‘whoop' in children. Babies and adults generally don't have the high-pitched ‘whoop'.
    • Intense bouts of coughing, which bring up thick phlegm
    • a ‘whoop' sound with each sharp intake of breath after coughing
    • vomiting after coughing, especially in infants and young children
    • tiredness and redness in the face from the effort of coughing
    • Babies and young children often appear very ill, and may turn blue and vomit from coughing so much.

This stage usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks but can persist for up to 10 weeks.

Third stage (recovery stage):

During this stage, the cough gradually gets better. After several weeks the cough disappears. However, for months you may still get coughing fits whenever you get a respiratory infection like a cold.

See your doctor if you think you or a family member may have pertussis (whooping cough), particularly if they:

  • have prolonged coughing spasms
  • turn blue while coughing
  • cough with a whooping sound
  • are un-vaccinated

You should seek immediate medical advice if:

  • you have a baby of 6 months or younger who appears to be very ill
  • you (or your child) appear to be experiencing significant breathing difficulties such as extended periods of breathlessness
  • you (or your child) develop serious complications, such as seizures (fits) or pneumonia, an infection that causes inflammation of the tissues in your lungs

Babies under the age of one who get pertussis are more likely to become seriously ill and need hospital treatment.


Related topics

Back to Health News

Page last updated: 17 April 2019

Is this page useful?