With the current national whooping cough epidemic, Toi Te Ora Public Health is reinforcing the importance of immunisations.

Since November 2017, across the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts there have been 217 cases of whooping cough notified to the local Medical Officer of Health.

Whooping cough (also called pertussis) is caused by bacteria spread by coughing and sneezing.

It can be a serious disease.


"Symptoms usually start with a runny nose and dry cough. The coughing gets worse and can be followed by a gasping breath in or 'whoop', and sometimes vomiting," said medical officer of health Dr Natasha Murray.

Babies under 1 are most at risk of serious complications from whooping cough.

They are often unable to feed or breathe properly so become very ill and may end up in hospital.

"Many adults don't realise they have whooping cough, but can still spread it. People with a cough should, if possible, try and avoid contact with young babies," said Dr Murray.

On-time immunisation is the best way to help protect babies, children, pregnant women and adults, with free immunisation for women between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy via their family doctor.

"By getting immunised each pregnancy, you pass on your immunity to your baby. This helps protect them from birth until their first immunisation at 6 weeks old," said Dr Murray.

"It is really important that babies get their first immunisation on time at 6 weeks. If immunisation is delayed, they are more at risk of catching whooping cough from others."

After the 6 week immunisation, further free childhood immunisations are required for ongoing protection.