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Kiwis with asthma at risk from whooping cough

WARNING: Ashthma sufferers could be at risk of developing whooping cough this winter. File picture

THOUSANDS of Kiwi adults living with common respiratory diseases such as asthma risk potentially life-threatening complications from whooping cough this winter.

The warning comes with the country experiencing a nationwide outbreak of whooping cough with over 4690 New Zealanders contracting the disease since it began in 2017.

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a common and potentially deadly illness caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, rivaling measles as one of the most contagious diseases affecting the human population.

Rates of pertussis are higher in Maori and Pasifika people aged 15 plus, with rates of respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) also a significant health issue in these populations.

Internationally, New Zealand has a high prevalence of asthma with one in eight (12 percent) of adults taking current asthma medication.

New Zealand also has one of the highest hospital admission rates for asthma of OECD countries and pre-existing asthma can increase the rate of hospitalisation from pertussis.

Similarly, COPD, which is a term covering emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma, is the fourth leading cause of death nationwide.

One in seven adults over 45 have COPD with hospitalisation rates highest for Maori.

Vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris says although generally not severe in otherwise healthy adults, pertussis can be associated with serious complications in patients with existing chronic conditions such as obesity, asthma or COPD, and can be readily transmitted to other vulnerable populations, including infants before they complete their first vaccination.

She says while awareness is growing for the need to get vaccinated for influenza at this time of year, the burden of whooping cough among the adult population is widely underestimated and there is a clear rationale for extending vaccination throughout life to prevent disease in this group.

“While the focus is often on ensuring the protection of infants, there are other susceptible members of the community that risk serious health complications from whooping cough.

“For someone who lives with asthma or COPD, contracting pertussis could be life-threatening as these pre-existing respiratory diseases leave them more vulnerable.”

THOUSANDS of Kiwi adults living with common respiratory diseases such as asthma risk potentially life-threatening complications from whooping cough this winter.

The warning comes with the country experiencing a nationwide outbreak of whooping cough with over 4690 New Zealanders contracting the disease since it began in 2017.

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a common and potentially deadly illness caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, rivaling measles as one of the most contagious diseases affecting the human population.

Rates of pertussis are higher in Maori and Pasifika people aged 15 plus, with rates of respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) also a significant health issue in these populations.

Internationally, New Zealand has a high prevalence of asthma with one in eight (12 percent) of adults taking current asthma medication.

New Zealand also has one of the highest hospital admission rates for asthma of OECD countries and pre-existing asthma can increase the rate of hospitalisation from pertussis.

Similarly, COPD, which is a term covering emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma, is the fourth leading cause of death nationwide.

One in seven adults over 45 have COPD with hospitalisation rates highest for Maori.

Vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris says although generally not severe in otherwise healthy adults, pertussis can be associated with serious complications in patients with existing chronic conditions such as obesity, asthma or COPD, and can be readily transmitted to other vulnerable populations, including infants before they complete their first vaccination.

She says while awareness is growing for the need to get vaccinated for influenza at this time of year, the burden of whooping cough among the adult population is widely underestimated and there is a clear rationale for extending vaccination throughout life to prevent disease in this group.

“While the focus is often on ensuring the protection of infants, there are other susceptible members of the community that risk serious health complications from whooping cough.

“For someone who lives with asthma or COPD, contracting pertussis could be life-threatening as these pre-existing respiratory diseases leave them more vulnerable.”

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