Public health officials are urging Northlanders to stay up to date with their vaccinations, noting that in recent weeks, there have been two meningococcal infection cases and now six whooping cough cases in the last week.
Meningococcal cases have been in the Kaipara and Whangarei districts, and all whooping cough cases have been in the mid-North across linked households. The risk from these diseases does affect all Northlanders, however.
“Meningococcal infections are caused by Neisseria meningitidis, which can invade deep into the body and cause serious illnesses like meningitis,” said Dr Ankush Mittal, Northland Medical Officer of Health.
“Whooping cough (also called pertussis) is caused by bacteria called Bordetella pertussis and usually affects our breathing system.”
“Both these bacteria are capable of causing serious infections that can often leave people, especially children and babies, very sick.”
More information on the signs and symptoms of whooping cough and meningococcal disease can be found below:
Meningococcal Disease: https://www.arphs.health.nz/our-resources/fact-sheet-meningococcal-disease/(external link)
Free meningococcal vaccines are now part of the childhood immunisation programme for children up to 12 months in New Zealand, with a catch-up for children under 5.
Young people aged 13-25 are also eligible if they live in a shared accommodation setting such as a hostel or residence halls. These vaccines have been used extensively and safely worldwide for many years.
Whooping cough vaccines are long-standing parts of our routine immunisation schedule for children and adults, but also a critical part of the care offered in pregnancy from the second trimester onwards.
“Taking this vaccine during pregnancy will build your body’s natural immune defences to whooping cough, which you then gift to your baby in the womb,” Dr Mittal said.
“This defence protects your newborn in their first weeks and months of life when the threat from whooping cough is greatest. The vaccine is well established and known to be safe in pregnancy.”
To date, three infants, all aged under one year, have died from whooping cough in 2023 in New Zealand.
Immunisation is available FREE at mobile immunisation clinics(external link) throughout Northland, your GP and some community pharmacies.
Ngā Tātai Ihorangi mobile van will be in the Kaikohe New World car park from Monday, 28 August, until Thursday, 31 August, from 11 am until 5 pm.
On Friday 1 September the van will be in the Kaikohe New World car park from 9 am until 2 pm.
People of all ages can be eligible for free vaccinations or catch-ups where they may have missed a dose. It is essential to stay up to date with immunisations, as over time, our immunity from older immunisations reduces, which is why there are booster doses at ages 45 and 65.
You can find out more information about a clinic near you on Healthpoint(external link)
https://www.immunise.health.nz/whoopingcough(external link) for online information on whooping cough and the vaccine.