Over 200 people in New Zealand have reported having whooping cough in the last month, and the number is expected to rise.
Pertussis (whooping cough) can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. After 1 to 2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks.
In infants, the cough can be minimal or not even there. Infants may have a symptom known as “apnea.” Apnea is a pause in the child’s breathing pattern. Pertussis is most dangerous for babies. About half of infants younger than 1 year of age who get the disease are hospitalized.
In New Zealand, historically, a whooping cough outbreak happens once every four years – with the last taking place in 2011/12.While the number of daily reports of patients believed to have whooping cough is declining, health officials expect the numbers to rise again in weeks to come.
Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include:
- Runny nose
- Low-grade fever (generally minimal throughout the course of the disease)
- Mild, occasional cough
- Apnea — a pause in breathing (in infants)
The best way to prevent pertussis (whooping cough) among infants, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. The recommended pertussis vaccine for infants and children is called DTaP. This is a combination vaccine that protects against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. There is a booster for preteens, teens and adults that contains protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap).