Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an NZME. News Service reporter based in Christchurch.

Baby girl's death from whooping cough was preventable - coroner

Baby girl dies in growing whooping cough outbreak.

Alaya-Reign Ma'anaima-Pamata died of whooping cough when just six weeks old.  Photo / Supplied
Alaya-Reign Ma'anaima-Pamata died of whooping cough when just six weeks old. Photo / Supplied

The death of a 6-week old Christchurch baby from whooping cough was preventable, a coroner has concluded.

Alaya-Reign Faalilo Ma'anaima died in the paediatric ward at Christchurch Hospital on November 2012.

She contracted whooping cough before her first vaccination - at 6 weeks - but Coroner Sue Johnson said greater vaccine coverage is needed throughout New Zealand.

It would reduce the spread of the highly transmissible infectious disease and reduce the risk of death it poses to new babies, the coroner said.

Alaya-Reign started having coughing bouts a month after her premature birth by caesarean section on September 25, 2012.

At 5 weeks old, she was admitted to hospital and transferred to the High Dependency Unit.

A swab tested positive for whooping cough and she began antibiotic treatment.

During this time, her father also developed whooping cough symptoms.

Despite the treatment, her condition deteriorated and preparations were made to transfer her to Starship Hospital in Auckland.

But she continued to go down hill and she "died peacefully in her mother's arms and with her father present'' on November 10, 2012.

There has been a whooping cough epidemic in New Zealand since August 2011.

A free vaccine is provided to babies, children, and pregnant women.

But Dr Nick Baker, a paediatrician and chairman of the New Zealand Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, told Coroner Johnson that the vaccine uptake for pregnant women in the last third of pregnancy has been "relatively poor''.

The coroner found that the baby's death was preventable and supported Dr Baker's recommendation that expecting mums, as well as fathers and grandparents, are encouraged to be vaccinated ahead of a birth.

Whooping cough

* The disease is most infectious in the first couple of weeks, when symptoms are like a normal cold.

* A vaccination was developed and subsequent routine childhood immunisation began in 1960.

* Free vaccinations are given to babies at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age.

* Children under 12 months old are at the most risk of hospitalisation and death.

* Between August 2011 when the outbreak began and April last year, more than 8800 cases of whooping cough have been reported.

* During the epidemic in 2004-2005, more than 5000 cases were reported. In 2004, 159 children were hospitalised, and one child died.

- NZ Herald

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