The Ministry of Health is encouraging people to be extra vigilant as they gather for Christmas and New Year celebrations to protect young babies from whooping cough.
The Ministry has declared a national outbreak of whooping cough, with 1315 cases reported since the beginning of 2017.
“Babies under one-year-old are most vulnerable to the disease and often catch it from older siblings, their parents or family members and friends,” says director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay.
“The best way to protect babies is for pregnant women to get their free immunisation against whooping cough between 28 and 38 weeks, and take their baby for their free immunisations when they're six weeks, three months and five-months-old.”
Any siblings should also be up-to-date with their immunisations – older children receive free boosters at four and 11 years of age. If people are unsure whether they or their children have been immunised, they can talk to their health practitioner, doctor or nurse.
“On-time immunisation is vitally important,” says Caroline. “If immunisation is delayed, babies are vulnerable for longer.”
When pregnant women are vaccinated, they pass their immunity on to their babies, protecting them until they are able to be immunised at six weeks.
“Anyone with coughs should be especially careful if they are likely to come in to contact with babies. Most adults don't realise they have whooping cough, but it is incredibly contagious.”