Whooping cough cases more than double in a year in UK
Officials have already recorded 2,466 cases of the infection this year. There have been five deaths among infants

|

UPDATED:

16:24 GMT, 27 July 2012

Whooping cough: Vaccination is the most effective way to protect people from this infection

Whooping cough: Vaccination is the most effective way to protect people from this infection

Reported cases of whooping cough in England and Wales this year are already double what they were in 2011, it was revealed today.

To the end of June, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) recorded 2,466 cases of the infection, which can be lethal to infants.

In comparison, a total of 1,118 cases were identified during the whole of last year.

The increase has occurred across all regions of England, with some clustering in schools and healthcare facilities.

Whooping cough, also known as
pertussis, affects all ages but is especially dangerous to babies.

Early
symptoms are similar to the common cold but the second stage causes
intense bouts of coughing. Babies under one year of age who catch
whooping cough will need treatment in hospital. Antibiotics are the main treatment.

So far this year there have been five whooping cough-related deaths among infants in England and Wales.

The disease comes and goes in a cyclical pattern, with increased incidence occurring every three to four years.

The last peak was in 2008, when 421 cases were reported to the HPA between January 1 and June 30. Today's figures show a much more worrying picture in 2012.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA said: 'The HPA is very concerned about the ongoing increase in cases and we are working closely with the Department of Health's Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to consider the most effective ways to tackle the ongoing outbreak.

'The JCVI is reviewing a number of options including the introduction of a booster dose in teenagers and offering whooping cough vaccination to pregnant women.'

At its June meeting, the committee recommended whooping cough vaccination for healthcare staff working with young babies.

A whooping cough bacterium. Antibiotics are the main treatment

A whooping cough bacterium. Antibiotics are the main treatment

Dr Ramsay added: 'Whooping cough can spread easily to close contacts such as household members. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect people from this infection and uptake of the vaccine in the UK is very good.

'In addition to this, parents should ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity.

'Whooping cough can be a very serious illness, especially in the very young. In older people it can be unpleasant but does not usually lead to serious complications.

'Anyone showing signs and symptoms, which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic 'whoop' sound in young children, but as a prolonged cough in older children and adults, should visit their GP.'

Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol, said: 'The rise is happening partly because doctors are thinking of the diagnosis more and testing for it, but that is not the whole story. It's also because the current vaccination programme has reduced whooping cough in children but also pushed it back into older age groups.

'Immunity due to vaccine does not last as long as immunity due to infection so as the number of people who have had whooping cough in the past falls, population immunity falls and rates go up. This is happening everywhere, not just in the UK.'

Just a few weeks ago the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S said American is on track to have the worst year for whooping cough in more than five decades.

Nearly 18,000 cases have been reported so far – more than twice the number seen at this point last year.

At this pace, the number of whooping cough cases will surpass every year since 1959.