Auckland Regional Public Health
Cornwall Complex, Floor 2, Building 15
Greenlane Clinical Centre, Auckland
Private Bag 92 605, Symonds Street,
Auckland 1150, New Zealand
25th May 2012
Dear Parent/Caregiver, (Whooping cough (pertussis)
A child from Western Springs College has been diagnosed with whooping cough. What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread by coughing and
sneezing. People with the disease usually start by having a runny nose and dry cough.
The cough gradually gets worse and lasts for weeks, often developing into long
coughing attacks. It can affect all ages, but may be particularly severe in babies and
young children. Babies can become very ill and may not be able to feed or breathe
properly. Many need to be hospitalised, and some may die. It is not uncommon for
babies to catch whooping cough from their older siblings or parents – often before they
are old enough to be vaccinated.
Immunisation is the most effective way of reducing whooping cough in our community.
It is important to check that your children are fully up to date with their immunisations. If
in doubt ask your doctor.
Adults living with or who care for young children, pregnant women, or those with health
concerns (for example lung or heart conditions) should also consider getting immunised.
Ask your doctor what your family can do to protect themselves from whooping cough. If your child has possible symptoms of whooping cough, they should stay away
Western Springs College, and see their doctor as soon as possible for
If their doctor thinks that whooping cough is a possibility, your child may
require a test, and a course of antibiotics. Your child should then stay away from
Western Springs College until they have taken the first five days of the course of
antibiotics. If you choose not to give your child antibiotics, they need to stay away from
Western Springs College for three weeks from the start of their bad cough.
Your doctor should let Auckland Regional Public Health Service know that he/she
suspects whooping cough, so that we can assess the rest of the household and
contacts, to see if anyone else requires treatment. This is important to stop the spread
of whooping cough to people at higher risk of serious complications. Where can you get more information?
The below whooping cough Fact Sheet provides more information about the disease.
For further information, please contact your doctor or Auckland Regional Public Health
Service on 09 623 4600 (ask to speak to the AMT nurse). Please show this letter to your doctor to help them provide the best care and
Medical Officer FACT SHEET
PERTUSSIS (WHOOPING COUGH)
This fact sheet is for children and adults who have been diagnosed with pertussis (whooping
cough), are worried they might have it, or have been in contact with someone with pertussis.
What is pertussis?
Pertussis is a highly infectious disease caused by bacteria, which is spread through the
community by coughing and sneezing, in the same way as colds and influenza. Roughly every
four to five years we experience an outbreak of many cases of pertussis – known as an
epidemic. The last large pertussis epidemic occurred in 2004-2005, with a smaller outbreak in
Young children, especially babies under six months, can become extremely ill and occasionally
die from pertussis. Older children and adults get pertussis too, which if not diagnosed and
treated, may spread to young children. What are the symptoms?
Pertussis starts with a runny nose and dry cough. The cough gets worse over the next few
weeks, often developing into very long coughing attacks. In babies and children these coughing
attacks often end with a ‘whoop’ sound when breathing in, or end with vomiting. Babies with
pertussis can turn blue or stop breathing. If you think you or your child might have pertussis, see
your family doctor without delay.
Immunity (protection) to pertussis decreases over time, so older children and adults can catch
whopping cough and pass it on to babies and young children even if they have been immunised
or had the infection before. It is important for children to get their booster immunisations at 4
and 11 years to keep their protection up during their school years. What can be done to prevent pertussis?
Getting immunisations on time offers the best protection against pertussis.
Newborn babies do not get very good immunity/protection from their mother, even if she has
had pertussis before. In babies, delays in being immunised increase the risk of being admitted
to hospital with pertussis during their first year by four times, so it is very important that
immunisations are given on time.
To give your baby the best protection, pertussis immunisations should be given at the
recommended times, that is:
If for some reason your child has not completed the full course of immunisations, or you are not
sure, see your doctor or practice nurse to discuss catch-up immunisations.
You can also check whether your child is up-to-date with immunisations by calling the National
Immunisation Register on 09 638 0393 or 09 638 0394, or by checking in their Plunket (Well
Other means of protecting babies and young children from pertussis
Pertussis is most severe in babies and young children, especially if they are too young to have
completed their immunisations or have a weak immune system (immunocompromised). Things
that can be done to protect other children include:
Keeping babies away from people with a runny nose, coughing, or sneezing
Asking people who are ill not to visit if you have young children
Immunising adults and older children greatly decreases the chance of them getting pertussis
and passing it on to babies and young children. Immunisation is recommended for:
o Older children and adults in families with young babies or that are expecting a
o Adults who care for babies or young children e.g. nurses, midwives, early
Adults who are parents or expecting a baby, or who care for babies, should discuss their
options for immunisation with their doctor. Adult immunisation against pertussis is not currently free
Treating people with whooping cough to stop it spreading though your
Treating people with whooping cough to stop it spreading
If someone in your family has had a cough that ends with a whoop or vomiting, or that has
lasted for two weeks or more, they should see their doctor or nurse for advice. Adults often don’t
realise they have pertussis. In the early stages of infection with pertussis it can be difficult to
work out what it is. A special nose swab or blood test may help in the diagnosis.
The correct antibiotic (usually erythromycin) may help prevent the infection spreading further. If
there is a baby, a child who hasn’t had al of their immunisations, a pregnant woman, or a
person with a weak immune system in the family, your doctor may advise a course of antibiotics
for everyone in the family in an attempt to protect them from being infected by other family
members. Should adults and children with pertussis, or who have been in contact with someone
with pertussis, avoid contact with others?
Yes. People who have been diagnosed with pertussis or been in contact with someone with
pertussis should avoid contact with people who may be susceptible to infection. This includes
young babies, children who are not fully immunised, pregnant women in third trimester, and
people with a weakened immune system. If you are not sure if this means you, please ask your
They should stay away from daycare, kindy, kohanga reo or other preschool education, school,
and community gatherings and also stay away from work (e.g. for adults) until one of the
following has occurred, either:
they have taken five
days of a course of an appropriate antibiotic, or
three weeks have passed since the start of the bad coughing attacks
If you suspect you or your child is sick with pertussis phone Healthline on 0800 611 116 or visit
your doctor. For more information on immunisation, please call the Immunisation Advisory
Centre for free on 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) or visit their websit For further information, contact the Auckland Regional Public Health Service,
phone 09 623 4600
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