Published by BBC NEWS - 7th March 2024
  • Published
Baby with a temperatureImage source, Getty Images

There is a worrying rise in whooping cough, officials warn, with 553 cases in England recorded in January alone and high numbers in Wales.

They fear it could be a bumper year for the bacterial infection. The last peak year, 2016, saw 5,949 cases in England.

Known as pertussis or “100-day cough”, the infection can be particularly serious for babies and infants.

And The UK Health Security Agency warns of a steady decline in uptake of the vaccine in pregnant women and children.

100-day cough

In September 2023, the number of two-year-olds who completed their routine six-in-one vaccinations, which includes protection against pertussis, was 92.9%, compared with 96.3% in March 2014.

Uptake of the maternal pertussis vaccine, offered to women in every pregnancy, also dropped – from over 70% in September 2017 to about 58% in September 2023.

The first signs of whooping cough are similar to a cold, with a runny nose and sore throat.

But after about a week, the infection can develop into coughing bouts that last 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.

The bacteria spread through coughs and sneezes, so experts advise members of a family in which it has been diagnosed to stay at home until three weeks after the symptoms began or 48 hours after the patient started taking antibiotics.

NHS England national director for vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: “With whooping cough on the rise, it is important that families come forward to get the protection they need.

“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 as soon as possible.

“And if you or your child have symptoms ask, for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111.”

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