Three babies die from whooping cough in biggest outbreak for 20 years

The total number of cases is tenfold higher than during the last peak in 2008
  • @jeremylaurance

More than 50 cases of whooping cough are being reported each day and 13 infants have died in the worst UK outbreak for over 20 years.

The total number of cases is tenfold higher than during the last peak in 2008.

There were 1,614 cases recorded in October bringing the total so far this year to 7,728 compared with 797 over the same period four years ago.

Whooping cough normally occurs in cycles every three to four years.

The Health Protection Agency announced in September that all pregnant women would be offered  vaccination against whooping cough to stem the infant death toll which had then claimed ten lives.

Three more infants died of the disease in October. HPA officials warned it was too early for any impact of the vaccination to be seen but urged expectant mothers to take up the offer.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation at the HPA, said: “Parents should also ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough on time, even babies of women who’ve had the vaccine in pregnancy – this is to continue their baby’s protection through childhood.”

“Parents should also be alert to the signs and symptoms of whooping cough – which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound in young children but as a prolonged cough in older children or adults. It is also advisable to keep babies away from older siblings or adults who have the infection.”