Epi­demic strikes

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

A whoop­ing cough epi­demic is hit­ting Porirua hard, with a fifth of the Welling­ton re­gion’s re­ported cases com­ing from Porirua and Kapiti.

Since Oc­to­ber, 109 peo­ple in Porirua and Kapiti have come down with the dis­ease. There have been 527 cases re­gion­wide.

The epi­demic be­gan in the West Coast last win­ter be­fore spread­ing north­wards, and is the worst to hit New Zealand since 2004. Na­tion­wide there have been 1258 cases this year alone, com­pared to 198 in the first three months of 2011.

An­tibi­otics can cure the whoop­ing cough, but only if started within three weeks of peo­ple get­ting the dis­ease, says Re­gional Public Health med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health An­nette Nes­dale.

Af­ter that an­tibi­otics have no ef­fect and symp­toms may last for three months – whoop­ing cough is also known as ‘‘the 100 day cough’’, Dr Nes­dale says.

Vac­ci­na­tions are the best preven­tion for whoop­ing cough, Dr Nes­dale says.

Chil­dren should get free vac­ci­na­tions for whoop­ing cough aged six weeks, three months, five months, then booster shots aged 4 and 11 years. Adults over 16 can get vac­ci­nated but this costs.

Chil­dren are most vul­ner­a­ble to the dis­ease, es­pe­cially ba­bies un­der 12 months, but any­body can get it. Adults of­ten bring the dis­ease into homes af­ter pick­ing it up at work or school, she says.

The dis­ease man­i­fests mainly as a per­sis­tent cough, ac­com­pa­nied by wa­tery eyes and short­ness of breath.

‘‘It’s what we call parox­ysms of cough­ing. It just doesn’t stop,’’ Dr Nes­dale says. ‘‘It re­ally can be quite un­pleas­ant.’’

Any­one who has had the dis­ease for less than three weeks should see a doc­tor for an­tibi­otics, then keep iso­lated for five days, Dr Nes­dale says. Af­ter three weeks the pa­tient is no longer in­fec­tious.

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