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12-04-2012 | General practice | Article

GPs warned of whooping cough surge


Health Protection Agency

Cases of whooping cough have risen sharply in recent months, report Health Protection Agency (HPA) experts who are calling on GPs to help ensure children are vaccinated against the infection.

A total of 665 laboratory confirmed cases in England and Wales were reported to the agency between January and March in 2012, compared with a total of 1,040 cases over the whole of 2011.

The increase started at the end of 2011 and cases have been found across all regions in England, with some areas reporting clusters in schools, universities and healthcare settings. Importantly, the increase has extended to very young children, who are at greatest risk of severe complications.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: "The HPA has written to GPs to remind them of the signs and symptoms of this infection and stress the importance of vaccination." Parents are also being reminded to check children's vaccinations are up to date - in particular to make sure they receive the pre-school booster to help prevent the spread of infection.

Latest available UK figures on DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccination indicate that 95% of children had completed their primary immunisation by 1 year of age and 97% by 2 years, and that 88% had received their booster by 5 years.

"The agency is also encouraging GPs to report cases quickly and to make them aware of the HPA's guidance to help reduce the spread of infection," Dr Ramsay added.

A slight increase in measles cases has also been seen since the beginning of the year, primarily in unvaccinated individuals, and the HPA is urging parents to make sure their children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price