Whooping cough outbreak – advice for pregnant women

Auckland DHB maternity services, Starship Child Health and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service are warning pregnant women to take the current whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak seriously and ensure they are up to date with vaccinations.

The Ministry of Heath recently declared a national outbreak of the highly infectious disease, which can be fatal. Babies under one year old are most vulnerable, but can be protected if their mothers are vaccinated between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy.

When pregnant women are vaccinated, they will give their immunity to their babies, protecting them until they are able to be vaccinated at six weeks of age.

Auckland DHB Chief Medical Officer Dr Margaret Wilsher says: “Starship has seen a concerning increase in the number of babies and young children hospitalised with serious illness caused by whooping cough over the past two months. 

“Whooping cough is highly infectious and is particularly serious for babies under one year of age. Two babies died from whooping cough in New Zealand in an outbreak in 2013. We encourage all pregnant women to ensure they are vaccinated against this preventable disease.”

To keep whānau safe, children must be vaccinated on time. Families expecting a new baby, or who have a baby under 12 months old, should check that all their family members and visitors to the baby have had the whooping cough vaccination in the last five years.

Vaccination for all children is free, and women in their last three months of every pregnancy can now have free vaccination from their GP. This protects the newborn baby for the first few weeks of their life; babies cannot be vaccinated until they are six weeks old.

If you are not sure if your children are fully vaccinated, check their Well Child/Tamariki Ora Health Book, or ask your family doctor or practice nurse.

If you feel sick with a cold – a runny nose, sneezing, a slight fever and a mild irritating cough, you might have whooping cough, so you must stay away from babies and visit your GP.

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