Whooping cough cases in Hertfordshire soar by 400 per cent in a year

PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 October 2012

Vaccines are being offered to pregnant women

Vaccines are being offered to pregnant women

Archant

A MASSIVE 400 per cent rise in cases of whooping cough has been recorded in Hertfordshire in the last year.

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, can be a serious and highly contagious illness, especially in the very young.

The main symptoms are severe coughing fits which, in babies and children, are accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound as the child gasps for breath after coughing.

Very young children have the highest risk of severe complications and death. Whooping cough in older people can be an unpleasant illness, but does not usually lead to serious complications.

The infection can be treated with a course of antibiotics to prevent the infection spreading further but young infants may need hospital care due to the risk of severe complications.

Pregnant women in Hertfordshire have been offered vaccinations to protect their newborn babies in a bid to stem the tide.

Since the start of the year, nine babies under the age of three months have died from whooping cough in England and Wales.

The vaccine programme provides protection by boosting the short-term immunity passed on by pregnant women to their newborn babies – who normally cannot be vaccinated until they are two months old.

The latest figures released by the Health Protection Agency, show there were 140 confirmed cases in the county up to October 17 this year, compared to 28 cases during the whole of 2011 and just seven in 2010.

Across the east of England, cases have leapt from 26 in 2010, to 104 last year and 756 so far this year.

And in England and Wales the statistics show 422 cases in 2010, 1,118 last year and 2,290 this year to date.

Jim McManus, director of public health in Hertfordshire, said: “Over the last year we have seen a large rise in the number of whooping cough cases, the most serious of which are in children too young to be protected by routine vaccinations.

“If you are pregnant, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect your baby.”

He added: “Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be a serious illness.

“The main symptoms are severe coughing fits which, in babies and children, are accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound as the child gasps for breath after coughing.

“Newborn babies are particularly vulnerable so it is vital they are protected from the day they are born, which is why we are offering the vaccine to all pregnant women.”

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