9,000 people contracted the condition and 14 young children died in 2012

One in five children who see a doctor with a persistent cough may have the rare and dangerous condition whooping cough, new research indicates.

Whooping cough, which causes severe coughing fits, and sometimes vomiting and difficulty breathing, can be deadly in very young children.

A spike in cases in the UK 2012, when more than 9,000 people contracted the condition and 14 young children died, has led to renewed concerns and questions over the effectiveness of the existing vaccination programme.

A new study carried out at Oxford University has shown that 18 per cent of a group of children who visited their GP about a cough between 2010 and 2012 had whooping cough, despite having been vaccinated against the condItion.

Whooping cough cases were down again in 2013, with 4,623 cases and three deaths, but public health officials are remaining vigilant. A new vaccination in pregnancy was introduced in 2012, to supplement jabs for children at two, three, and four months, and a booster at 3 years old.

Health officials are now considering whether to introduce an additional booster jab for teenagers.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Public Health England's head of immunisation said: “The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation regularly reviews updated scientific analysis and the introduction of additional whooping cough boosters is being kept under review.”