Wanganui Hospital treats first cases in whooping cough epidemic
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Four young children with whooping cough have been admitted to Wanganui Hospital during the past two weeks prompting a reminder from paediatrics clinical nurse manager Janene Louwrens to make sure children are immunised against the disease.
 
Mrs Louwrens says it is heartbreaking seeing children struggling to breathe as a result of whooping cough.
 
The mother of five-week-old-Daleini Mareikura who was hospitalised two weeks ago fully supports Mrs Louwrens saying her daughter was very lucky to pull through and she hopes by publishing her photo, parents will see just how small and vulnerable she was.
 
Mahalia Toru-Wallace says the fact that Daleini’s twin sister was hospitalised last month with whooping cough also shows how easy it is for one child to catch it from another. The girls were too young to have been immunised.
 
“Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection which is spread by coughing and sneezing,” Mrs Louwrens says.
 
“It can cause severe coughing attacks, vomiting and serious complications, such as pneumonia and brain inflammation. Babies and young children can become very ill with babies unable to feed or breathe properly. Many need to be hospitalised.”
 
Mrs Louwrens says it’s very common for babies to catch whooping cough from their older siblings or parents and unfortunately, often before they are old enough to be vaccinated.
 
Whooping cough is most infectious in the first couple of weeks, when symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, slight fever and a mild irritating cough.
 
The next ‘coughing’ stage usually lasts anywhere from one to 10 weeks. This is when babies and children get coughing attacks followed by a big breath in or high-pitched ‘whoop’. Infants and young children may vomit with coughing bouts.
 
Head of Wanganui Hospital’s Paediatric Department David Montgomery knows from personal experience what an awful disease whooping cough can be.
 
“Eleven years ago I recall treating an unimmunised six-year-old who had whooping cough,” Dr Montgomery says. “A few weeks later I developed a cough, and not realising that I had whooping cough, continued to work and even instructed on a course.
 
“It was only when my five-week-old son developed a cough and stopped breathing that I realised we both had whooping cough, and that I had passed it on to my son.  He spent a very anxious couple of weeks in Starship Hospital, and I was painfully aware that he might die or suffer brain damage from the infection.
 
“My son has made a good recovery, but some others are not so lucky. I strongly urge parents, grandparents, and people who work with children, to consider having themselves immunised with the Boostrix immunisation, which is available from all GPs.
 
“This is particularly important now that we are in the grips of a whooping cough epidemic. To illustrate how serious this is, the mortality for whooping cough in children under two months is approximately one in 100 cases.”
 
Whanganui District Health Board medical officer of health Patrick O’Connor confirmed today that 20 cases of whooping cough have been notified in the past week – most of them children.