Whooping costs hospital $334k

Last updated 05:00 22/02/2013

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A whooping cough epidemic sweeping the country has cost Christchurch Hospital $334,000.

Forty-two people have been admitted to the hospital with whooping cough since the current outbreak began in May 2011, costing the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) an average of $8000 each.

Three patients also spent time in the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU), which cost the hospital an average of $4600 per day.

One patient spent six hours in intensive care, another spent 11 hours and the third spent 21 hours in ICU.

Outbreaks usually lasted about 18 months, but the current outbreak was showing no signs of slowing down yet, with another 23 cases of the disease reported in the CDHB area during the week ending February 15, and another 19 cases were reported the week before.

A Christchurch Hospital spokeswoman said immunisation against whooping cough, also known as pertussis, provided the best chance to avoid hospital admissions.

"Especially for vulnerable babies and infants ... it could be the difference between developing a critical illness unnecessarily or saving their lives."

Christchurch 6-week-old Alaya-Reign Pamata Ma'anaima was one of two children to die from the disease last year.

The newborn was too sick to be transferred to Auckland's Starship children's hospital and spent nine days in Christchurch Hospital before she died on November 10.

A 3-year-old unimmunised child with underlying health conditions also died.

St Albans mother-of-two Rachel Kitchingham was recently diagnosed with whooping cough after initially thinking she had a normal cold.

She visited a GP after feeling sick for more than a week and was given antibiotics as a precaution. However, it was another week before test results confirmed she had whooping cough.

"I have got friends with a young baby, but I didn't know what I had so I didn't go near them. I do worry though that I might have infected other people during those 10 days."

She had taken three days off work so far and had also had to pay for doctors visits for the rest of her family to check they did not have the disease either.

"It's quite hard at night-time trying to sleep. When you cough it's quite hard to keep your breathe ... it's a bit frightening.

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