Epidemic hits hard
A nationwide whooping cough epidemic has hit Waikato hard, with 10 confirmed cases in MatamataPiako since the start of the year.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread by coughing and sneezing.
It can cause severe coughing attacks, vomiting and serious complications, such as pneumonia and brain inflammation, and is extremely dangerous for babies and young children.
Dr Debbie Barham said whooping cough should be taken seriously and she advised anyone who showed symptoms of the illness to contact the Matamata Medical Centre.
“Over winter, we are asking people to ring in and leave their details,” she said.
“A nurse will call them back and help them to decide whether they need to be seen by a doctor, or if it is something they can manage at home.”
Immunisation for whooping cough was important, particularly among parents and people in close contact with babies less than one year of age, said Dr Barham.
“Really young babies who aren’t immunised yet are the ones who tend to get really sick from this. We rely on the fact that everyone else is vaccinated.”
About 75 per cent of babies who contract whooping cough before the age of six months require hospitalisation. Children under 1-year-old who are sick enough to be hospitalised have a one in 200 chance of dying.
Vaccinations against whooping cough are given in three rounds, usually when babies are six weeks, three and five months old and followed by boosters when they are four and 11. They are free in New Zealand.
Booster shots for adults are available at any general practice in New Zealand and typically cost around $30.
Immunisation education facilitator Michelle Tanner said the Ministry of Health recently recommended that pregnant women receive the vaccine.
“If pregnant women get the vac- cine, they develop the antibodies and pass them on to the baby.”
“This means the baby has some immunity before they receive their first vaccination.’’
For more information on the whooping cough vaccine contact your local practitioner or visit the Immunisation Advisory Centre website at immune.org.nz.
Getting drenched for charity: Usually you would associate pirates with ships but there wasn’t a ship in sight outside the Matamata Fire Station on Saturday. The Charity Pirates made a grand entrance into Matamata on Saturday in their converted fire engines with music pumping. Water fights have been taking place between the pirates and members of the brigade for a few years and senior fire officer Warren Feek said last year they were caught completely off guard so this year preparation was key. Each year the Charity Pirates travel throughout the North Island ‘‘taking money off the rich and giving it to the needy’’. This year their chosen charity is the Westpac Air Ambulance.