Toi Te Ora Public Health

1st December 2017

Keep the bugs at bay and enjoy a healthy summer holiday


With the year drawing to a close and school holidays fast approaching, we can almost taste rest and recreation.  With this in mind, the local Medical Officer of Health is reminding residents to check that their immunisations are up to date to prevent summer plans being spoiled by illness.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr Jim Miller, says, "With the early stages of a national whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak, and the ongoing large outbreak of mumps in Auckland, it's important residents in Bay of Plenty and Lakes check with their family doctor to see that they, and their whānau, are up to date with their immunisations before heading off on holiday."

There has been an increase in the number of whooping cough cases in our area and across New Zealand this year.  Since 1 January 2017, there have been 120 cases of pertussis notified locally to the Medical Officer of Health.  Of these, 82 cases have been in the Bay of Plenty, and 38 have been in the Lakes region.  Whooping cough is a highly infectious and distressing illness caused by bacteria that are spread through the community by coughing and sneezing in the same way as colds and influenza.  "Symptoms start with a runny nose, fever and dry cough.  Coughing gets worse over the next few weeks developing into attacks of coughing and sometimes vomiting," says Dr Miller.  The 'whoop' sound occurs as a baby draws a breath after a long coughing attack. 

Babies under one year are most at risk of serious complications from whooping cough.  The most effective way to protect babies is for their mother to be immunised during pregnancy (between 28 and 38 weeks) so that antibodies are passed on to the baby.  These antibodies will help reduce the likelihood of the baby becoming ill with whooping cough before their first immunisation at 6 weeks.  Dr Miller adds, "It is really important that babies get that first immunisation on time."  Further childhood immunisations are required at 3 months, 5 months, 4 years and 11 years to ensure ongoing protection.

In addition to the national rise in whooping cough cases, Mumps is also more common this year.  Since September 2016 there have been more than 1,000 cases of mumps reported in New Zealand.  While most of these cases have been in the Auckland region, holiday travel increases the likelihood of mumps spreading to other parts of the country.  Dr Miller adds, "It's also really important to check your immunisation status with your GP or practice nurse before traveling abroad and book in a vaccination if required."

Mumps is very infectious, and spreads from person to person by coughing and sneezing, or through contact with infected saliva.  Symptoms appear about 2 to 3 weeks after coming into contact with someone with mumps. "Vaccination is the best protection against mumps.  If you or your children have not had the recommended two MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccinations, we strongly recommend that you get these up to date," says Dr Miller.  MMR is recommended and free for anyone born after 1 January 1969 and is given to children at 15 months and again at 4 years of age. 

If you think you may have whooping cough or mumps, phone Healthline on 0800 611 116 for free advice, or see your GP.  If you're not sure if you or your family are up to date with immunisations, please contact your family doctor to check. For more information visit  and


For more information or comment, please contact:

Debbie Phillips
Public Health Communications Advisor
Toi Te Ora Public Health
Phone: 07 577 3793 (DDI: 6533) | Mob: 021 791 814

Last updated: August 29, 2018