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08-07-2012 | General practice | Article

Whooping cough alert sounded again



GPs have again been urged to report cases of whooping cough to the Health Protection Agency and step up vaccination efforts, as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise.

Latest data show that 702 cases were reported in May 2012, a large jump from the previous month's 365 cases following a steady rise since January, bringing the total reported so far this year to 1,781 cases. This compares with 1,118 cases for the whole of 2011.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: "The HPA is very concerned about the ongoing increase in cases and we are working closely with the Department of Health and NHS colleagues to monitor the situation and make recommendations to control the spread of infection. In addition, we are working closely with health professionals and the public to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms."

Whooping cough outbreaks follow a cyclical pattern with increases usually seen every 3 to 4 years, the last peak being seen in 2008. The HPA reminds doctors that whooping cough can spread easily to close contacts such as family members and that vaccination is the most effective way to protect people - in particular the pre-school booster to protect children and prevent the spread of infection to vulnerable babies who are not fully protected by the vaccine.

Dr Ramsay added: "The HPA has written to GPs to remind them of the signs and symptoms of this infection and stress the importance of vaccination. The agency is also encouraging GPs to report cases quickly to reduce the spread of the infection and make them aware of the HPA's guidance for the management of whooping cough cases."

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

By Caroline Price