This site is intended for health professionals only

Whooping cough cases continue to rise

Whooping cough has claimed another child's life bringing the total number of deaths in infants under three months old as a result of the disease to 10 this year.

According to figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), 1,322 cases of whooping cough were reported in England and Wales in September 2012.

This total number of cases this year now stands at 6,121 - five times higher than 2011 and almost seven times higher than 2008.

In September 2012, the government announced pregnant women in the UK would be offered whooping cough vaccinations to protect their unborn babies.

Traditionally, newborn babies cannot be vaccinated against the disease until they are two months old.

The £10m temporary programme, which began on 1 October 2012, is “mainly” administered in general practice, by GPs, midwives and practice nurses.

It is estimated around 650,000 women who are between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy are included in the vaccination programme every year.

In vaccinating a mother-to-be, it is expected her own immunity will receive a “boost” so that the antibodies she makes will be actively transported across the placenta into the baby.

“We have been very concerned about the continuing increase in whooping cough cases and related deaths and welcome the urgent action recently taken by the Department of Health to introduce a vaccine for pregnant women,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA.

“The introduction of a vaccine for pregnant women will not have an immediate impact on serious infection in infants so vigilance remains important. Working with the Department of Health we will continue to regularly monitor figures to evaluate the success of the programme.”