Whooping cough disease on rise

20:36, Feb 07 2013

Notifications of whooping cough in the Southern district more than tripled in 2012, though public health staff are unsure if this reflects the number of incidents or just better reporting from general practices.

There were 271 cases of whooping cough reported in Southland and Otago from January to December 2012 - a rate of 70.8 per 100,000. This was significantly higher than the 2011 rate of 19.8 and the 2010 rate of 14.8.

Nationally, the 2012 rate from January to December was 122.3 per 100,000 - a leap from 45.4 in 2011 and 20 in 2010.

A Public Health South report that went before the health board's joint disability advisory and community and public health advisory committee yesterday says that although numbers show current rates of infection are significantly higher than in the previous two years, rates across the Southern District Health Board area were lower than those for New Zealand as a whole.

"This may reflect both the dispersed nature of the population in the Southern district which inhibits the spread of the disease, and the high levels of vaccination achieved in our population."

In 2012, there were 22 hospital admissions in the Southern district for whooping cough, 73 per cent of which were children under 12 months.


There were no deaths, and all those admitted to hospital made a full recovery.

Less than half the patients - 49 per cent - had been immunised, and 23 per cent had unknown immunisation status.

It was a concern that 22 per cent of children under 12 months and 25 per cent of children aged 1 to 4 years with whooping cough were not immunised, the report says.

The increase - most notable in December - could reflect a response to "guidance" given to general practices in December on notification of whooping cough, the report says. However, there was still an underlying trend towards rising rates of infection.

Vaccinations for pregnant women had been made available since January 1 to protect newborns and infants, the committee was told yesterday.

This was in addition to funding approval for a new treatment for whooping cough - with a shorter course of antibiotics - made available to people of all ages from December 1.

The Southland Times