Whooping cough: Pregnant women and children urged to get vaccine as number of cases identified in Peterborough revealed

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UK Health Security Agency say five children across the country have died from whooping cough this year

Residents are being urged to make sure they are vaccinated against whooping cough as the number of cases recorded across the country increases.

In just two months, 10 cases of the illness have been recorded in Peterborough, and health officials have said there has been a rise in cases observed across all age groups across every part of England.

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Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows cases of whooping cough continue to increase across the country, with 1,319 cases confirmed in March. This follows 556 cases in January and 918 in February.

There has been a plea for people to get vaccinated against whooping cough as cases riseThere has been a plea for people to get vaccinated against whooping cough as cases rise
There has been a plea for people to get vaccinated against whooping cough as cases rise

Sadly, in the first quarter of 2024 (January - March), there have been five infant deaths. Young infants are at highest risk of severe complications and death from whooping cough. Updated estimates of vaccine effectiveness in pregnancy shows high levels of protection (92%) against infant death.

During this quarter, while most cases (50.8%, 1420) were in those aged 15 years or older who usually get a mild illness, the rates of whooping cough remain highest in babies under 3 months of age.

‘Contact GP if you have not been vaccinated’

Emmeline Watkins, Director of Public Health at Peterborough City Council, said: "There has been an increase in cases observed across all age groups and in every region of England. In Peterborough, there have been 10 clinical notifications of whooping cough between 26 February to 21 April.

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"If you are pregnant and have not been vaccinated yet, or your child is not up-to-date with whooping cough or other routine vaccinations, please contact your GP."

What are the symptoms?

Whooping cough, clinically known as pertussis, is a bacterial infection which affects the lungs. The first signs of infection are similar to a cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat, but after about a week, the infection can develop into coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are typically worse at night. Young babies may also make a distinctive ‘whoop’ or have difficulty breathing after a bout of coughing, though not all babies make this noise which means whooping cough can be hard to recognise.

"Vaccination remains the best defence against whooping cough"

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, Consultant Epidemiologist at UK Health Security Agency, said: "Vaccination remains the best defence against whooping cough and it is vital that pregnant women and young infants receive their vaccines at the right time.

“Pregnant women are offered a whooping cough vaccine in every pregnancy, ideally between 20 and 32 weeks. This passes protection to their baby in the womb so that they are protected from birth in the first months of their life when they are most vulnerable and before they can receive their own vaccines.

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“All babies are given three doses of the 6 in 1 jab at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age to protect against whooping cough and other serious diseases such as diphtheria and polio with a pre-school booster offered at 3 years 4 months.

“Whooping cough can affect people of all ages but for very young babies it can be extremely serious. Our thoughts and condolences are with those families who have so tragically lost their baby.”