Concern NZ could be at risk of whooping cough outbreak

Source: 1News

Covid-19 has left New Zealand at risk of a whooping cough outbreak, with very young babies the most vulnerable.

Vaccinologists say natural immunity's been weakened by lockdowns and other diseases might also make a comeback.

The heart-breaking sound of a baby with whooping cough is every parents worst nightmare. Now, there is concern from one leading vaccinologist that we could be on the brink of another epidemic.

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris says, “it’s a bit of a ticking time bomb not just for this disease but for other infections as well”.

The last whooping cough outbreak was in 2017, with as many as 600 cases a month. Petousis-Harris says Covid-19 has left many vulnerable.

“Because we haven’t been exposed really to as many infections as we might normally be we could potentially be a little more susceptible, our immunity might have waned against a number of things and we might be more able to pick infections up and transmit them.”

The highly-contagious illness is most severe in infants. Dr Bryan Betty from the Royal College of General Practitioners says it is a very severe disease that can cause death.

“We’re very concerned about it.” Keeping to the immunisation schedule is crucial.

The whooping cough vaccine is given at six weeks, three months and five months of age.

Pregnant women are being encouraged to get booster jabs.

“For the new-born baby that is born getting the anti-bodies from the mother who is vaccinated is really really important to provide early protection against whooping cough before the childhood vaccinations come into play,” Betty said.

There’s also concern childhood vaccinations are down in general. And fear that next year other viruses such as flu and measles will return too, putting more pressure on our hospitals.

Vigilance and vaccination the key doctors say, to protecting the vulnerable.