Baby's whooping cough death 'preventable'

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 12:37 26/02/2014
Jade Pamata and Simi Ma’anaima
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TRAGIC LOSS: Jade Pamata and Simi Ma’anaima with their daughter Alaya-Reign, who was six weeks premature.

Alaya-Reign Faalilo Ma'anaima
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TOO YOUNG FOR VACCINATION: Alaya-Reign Faalilo Ma'anaima died in Christchurch Hospital in November 2012 from whooping cough.

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The death of a six-week-old Christchurch baby from whooping cough was preventable, says a coroner.

Alaya-Reign Faalilo Ma'anaima died in Christchurch Hospital in November 2012 from the bacterial infection.

She was too young to have received the first whooping cough vaccination, but in her report on the death Coroner Sue Johnson said more extensive vaccine coverage could have prevented the baby's death.

Alaya-Reign was born on September 25, 2012, six weeks premature and delivered by Caesarean section.

A month later, on October 28, she started having coughing bouts and periods of turning blue.

On November 1, aged five weeks, she was admitted to Christchurch Hospital where a swab tested positive for whooping cough and antibiotic treatment began.

At this point, her father also developed symptoms consistent with whooping cough.

Babies are given a scheduled whooping cough vaccination at six weeks old, which Alaya-Reign had not yet received. Johnson's report said that babies born prematurely were especially vulnerable to the disease.

A week later, on November 7, Alaya-Reign's whooping cough had worsened. She started having periods of apnoea, where she stopped breathing, and was transferred to intensive care where she was put on a ventilator.

Plans were made to transfer her to Auckland's Starship Hospital, but her condition continued to worsen and the transfer was delayed.

On November 9, Alaya-Reign's transfer to Starship was cancelled as she developed multi-organ failure. She died the following day with her parents present.

In her report, Johnson supported recommendations from Dr Nick Baker, New Zealand Child Youth Mortality Review Committee chairman, that vaccinations for pregnant women continue to be encouraged. 

From January 1 2013, whooping cough vaccinations have been government-funded for women in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Adults are at risk of catching whooping cough, even if they were vaccinated as children, and Baker recommended that funding be increased to vaccinate fathers and other adults who would have close contact with newborns.

Babies receive whooping cough vaccinations at six weeks, three months and five months of age.

Since a whooping cough epidemic began in August 2011, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has recorded over 8800 cases of the disease.

Most hospitalisations and deaths occur in children under 12 months old. MoH statistics suggest in over 70 per cent of cases, newborns catch whooping cough from parents or other close family members.

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