Pregnant women in the Waikato are urged to get their free whooping cough immunisation before families gather to celebrate Christmas.
The Ministry of Health provides free whooping cough immunisations for women 28 to 38 weeks pregnant.
The vaccine reduces the risk of the pregnant mother contracting whooping cough and can help protect the baby for at least the first six weeks of life through antibodies passed through the placenta and through breast milk.
"The vaccine is particularly important at this time of year because 70 per cent of babies contract whooping cough from household contact," said Waikato DHB immunisation coordinator Kim Hunter.
"Christmas increases the risk of babies contracting whooping cough. Families, who are carrying it, come together and pass it onto babies who are much more vulnerable. The illness is not seasonal so it's vital we don't let our guard down just because winter is over.
"It is also really important to ensure babies also receive their free vaccinations on time, every time. Infants are not fully protected from whooping cough until they have received all three doses given at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age," Mrs Hunter said.
The Ministry of Health further recommends that all adults in contact with babies or young children should be immunised for whooping cough.
Whooping cough is a very contagious illness that commonly results in bouts of severe coughing.
"The illness can cause babies to stop breathing. Severe whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, collapsed lungs, or even brain damage or death," said Mrs Hunter.
"It's frightening for parents to see, and we are continuing to have babies hospitalised in the Waikato."
In the month of October 2013, Waikato was one the three regions with the highest number of reported whooping cough cases (excluding cases under investigation). Forty-four cases were reported by Canterbury DHB, 28 by Counties Manukau DHB, and 20 by Waikato DHB.
Since 1 January 2013, 3199 cases of whooping cough have been notified, including 1412 confirmed, 1548 probable, 129 suspect, and 110 cases still under investigation.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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