An increase in cases of potentially fatal whooping cough (pertussis) has focused attention on the need to vaccinate babies against the disease.
Doctors at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh have reported two recent deaths in unvaccinated young infants.
In the first, a one-month-old boy was taken to hospital with a five-day history of coughing and feeding difficulties, and died within 24 hours. Both parents reported coughing spells with vomiting in the previous two weeks.
In the second, a six-week-old girl died after a five-day history of coughing and breathlessness. Her mother subsequently tested positive for the infection.
Vaccination is usually given to infants at two to four months, with a booster after three years – but they can still catch it from affected household members before that time.
Meanwhile, an article by a group of paediatric intensive care doctors on bmj.com points to growing evidence that the incidence of whooping cough is rising in adolescents and adults.
Several countries, including the US and Australia, have introduced vaccination boosters, while France and Germany also recommend a targeted booster for parents and healthcare workers in contact with young children.
"I am confused - is the recommendation from the paediatric intensive care doctors that we should be immunising babies younger that 2 months against whooping cough? The program at the moment includes whooping cough in the 5 in 1 at 2, 3, & 4 months with a booster at 3yrs 4 months included in the pre school booster. If we are seeing whooping cough in babies younger than 2 months is there a need to look at the starting age for the primary immunisations?" - Frances Tristram, Chippenham