Mothers and pregnant women are being urged to take advantage of free immunisation for their children as a whooping cough outbreak continues to affect the Western Bay.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a serious illness that can be especially dangerous for babies and young children.
So far this year, authorities have been notified of 231 people in the Western Bay of Plenty having caught the disease, including 172 in Tauranga.
This compares with just 75 in Tauranga for the whole of last year.
The Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation and Toi Te Ora Public Health say mothers can protect their children against the disease by visiting their family doctors for free vaccinations.
Tauranga GP and PHO co-chair Dr Luke Bradford says pregnant women should get a free vaccination for themselves between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy.
“The whooping cough vaccine is safe for use in pregnancy. The vaccine itself will not get passed on to baby, but the mother’s immunity to whooping cough will.”
Luke says babies, after they were born, should get their free vaccinations at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age.
“Your baby needs to have three doses of the vaccine to be protected against whooping cough – even if you were immunised during pregnancy.”
Toi Te Ora Public Health’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Neil de Wet, says it's important for parents to ensure their children were kept up-to-date with all the routine childhood immunisations.
He says whooping cough could be a “very severe” illness for young babies.
“Older children and adults who get whooping cough are less likely to be seriously ill, but can spread it to others."
For that reason, it was best for people with whooping cough to stay away from work, school or pre-school until their doctor told them it was safe to return.
Neil says this is usually after a short period of antibiotic treatment or, if not given antibiotics, three weeks after the cough started.
Washing your hands often and covering coughs and sneezes can also help prevent whooping cough from spreading, says Neil
It's especially important not to cough near babies, as whooping cough is spread by coughing and sneezing.