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20-12-2012 | General practice | Article

Whooping cough alert still on

Abstract

Health Protection Agency

Cases of whooping cough remain high despite a slight dip last month, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced.

The agency stresses that there is usually a decrease in cases at this time of year, and so the reported decline does not necessarily signal the end of the severe outbreak that has been sweeping the UK.

In all, 1,080 cases were reported during November in England and Wales, down from 1,631 in October - the first decrease in monthly numbers since the current outbreak began in 2011.

Nonetheless, Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation at the HPA, explained in a press statement: "It is very important to note that we usually see a reduction in cases of whooping cough at this time of year so this decrease is in line with normal seasonal patterns."

The HPA also emphasises that pregnant women should be encouraged to receive the pertussis vaccine, although it is too soon for the introduction of this programme to have made any impact on case numbers.

Dr Amirthalingam said: "The recent announcement that at least 40% of pregnant women received the whooping cough vaccine in the first month of the programme is very encouraging. We would like to remind pregnant women how serious this infection can be in young babies and how it can in some cases cause death. Vaccination between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy should offer babies the best protection against whooping cough before they receive their own vaccines.

"As well as this, parents should ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough on time, even babies of women who've had the vaccine in pregnancy - this is to continue their baby's protection through childhood."

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

By Caroline Price, Senior medwireNews Reporter