Don't cough around babies, doctors warn
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 8:49a.m.
Parents have been warned not to cough around babies and young children as cases of whooping cough continue to rise nationwide.
Health officials are stressing the importance of vaccination, antibiotics and stringent hygiene habits to help stem the spread of the severe and painful coughing condition also known as Pertussis.
The South Island's west coast has been hardest hit but rates are also high in the Nelson area where 100 suspected cases were reported last month.
There have also been outbreaks in Canterbury, Wellington, Hutt Valley and Hawke's Bay.
Nelson medical officer of health Jill Sherwood says the condition is now widespread in her community, with children under one most susceptible to developing dangerous complications like pneumonia and serious ear infections.
"Adults are often the source of infection that spreads to children so it is important that adults don't cough around babies and children," Dr Sherwood said.
Unimmunised children should be taken to get their free jabs as soon as possible and women in the later stages of pregnancy should take care to avoid contact with sick people, she said.
Whooping cough is characterised by severe coughing spells that end in a "whooping" sound when the person coughing breathes in.
In October, Dr Sherwood warned this year's outbreak could develop into a nationwide epidemic similar to the one that hit the country in 2004 and 2005.
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