Whooping cough warning
Adults are being encouraged to get immunised against whooping cough as the country's longest epidemic persists.
Patricia Crosswell is one of more than 1500 Aucklanders diagnosed with whooping cough since the epidemic started in August 2011.
The Auckland resident says it took almost two months to realise she had the disease.
"I expected to get over this cough, it seemed quite mild but it just didn't go away," the teacher aide says. "I just had no energy and I wasn't up to a full day's work."
The condition disrupted her ability to care for her husband, who lives in a nearby nursing home.
"Once the doctor said I had whooping cough it just made sense," she says.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly infectious disease that is spread by coughing and sneezing. It takes its name from the dramatic "whooping" sound that children make when gasping for air following a coughing fit.
Mrs Crosswell, like many others, believed the immunisations she had as a youngster protected her against the disease.
However Auckland Regional Health Service pertussis spokesman Michael Hale says immunisation wanes over time.
"Most people don't realise there is a booster for 45 and 65-year-olds," Dr Hale says. "It's a good opportunity for people to protect themselves against the disease, especially if they know they are going to be in contact with a grandchild or other young people."
Children under the age of one are particularly vulnerable to whooping cough and 70 per cent who contract the disease will end up in hospital.
"We are very concerned for younger children because it's much more severe for them," Dr Hale says.
"In adults it's more of a long, inconvenient cough. It's not so life-threatening, but they can pass it on to the younger ones."
Whooping cough symptoms
Adults often don't realise they have whooping cough, which is also known as pertussis.
In the early stages it can be difficult to work out what it is. The disease starts with a runny nose and dry cough.
The cough gets worse over the next few weeks, often developing into very long coughing attacks.
In babies and children these coughing attacks often end with a ''whoop'' sound when breathing in, or end with vomiting.
Babies with pertussis can turn blue or stop breathing.
If someone in your family has had a cough that ends with a ''whoop'' or vomiting, or that has lasted for two weeks or more, they should see their doctor for advice.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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