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Whooping cough cases continue to rise

The number of whooping cough cases this year has outstripped the last 'peak' year by ten times, official figures show.

According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), 1,614 cases of whooping cough were reported in England and Wales in October 2012, bring the total so far this year to 7,728.

This is compared to 797 cases in 2008 - when the last outbreak of the disease happened.

While there has been a decline in the number of infant cases, three infant deaths from whooping cough were also reported, raising the total number of deaths in this age group so far this year to 13.

At the end of September, the Department of Health announced that pregnant women would be offered whooping cough vaccinations to protect their newborn babies, where it is hoped to boost the short term immunity passed on by women to their babies while they are still in the womb.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation at the HPA, warned it is “too early” to see any impact from the pregnancy vaccination programme, despite the decline in infant whooping cough cases in October.

“We strongly recommend all pregnant women take up the offer of vaccination,” said Dr Amirthalingam.

“Parents should also 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.”