Killer cough hits Waiheke
A serious outbreak of whooping cough on Waiheke is worrying medical centre staff.
Twenty cases of the potentially fatal illness have been confirmed on Waiheke in the past month, said Oneroa Accident and Medical Centre and Piritahi Hau Ora nurse lead Jayme Kitiona.
‘‘It’s a huge increase and it’s very concerning. Normally we might have one case a year, so to have 20 cases in the space of a month is an outbreak,’’ she said.
A Waiheke mother and her newborn baby have been hospitalised with whooping cough over recent weeks, Kitiona said.
Waiheke has lower immunisation rates than many parts of Auckland, because many parents choose not to immunise, said Auckland Primary Health Organisation child health coordinator Louise Goodall. At eight months of age, 92 per cent of Waiheke babies are fully immunised. By the time Waiheke children are two years old, only 76 per cent are fully immunised, compared with 94 per cent for both age groups across the health board area.
Goodall, Kitiona and Ostend Medical Centre nurse lead Deena Mear are encouraging people to take up free immunisation for children and pregnant women.
‘‘It can cause respiratory distress and babies can die from it,’’ Mear said.
Older people are also particularly vulnerable to the illness, which can cause people to cough until they vomit.
Kitiona described whooping cough as a ‘‘horrible disease’’.
‘‘There are long outbursts of coughing with shortness of breath that can be quite frightening.’’
People who suffer fever and persistent coughing, possibly with a whooping sound, need to see a doctor. The disease remains contagious for 21 days or until antibiotics are taken.
‘‘We’re concerned because we’ve got a high number of cases and it’s a highly infectious dis- ease. It’s airborne and its spread through coughing and sneezing,’’ Kitiona said.
Children at Waiheke schools have been diagnosed with whooping cough over recent weeks and it is beginning to appear among children in day care centres, Kitiona and Mear said.
Goodall said there is also a serious mumps outbreak in Auckland. The low immunisation rate for Waiheke two year olds is a concern for both whooping cough and mumps.