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Whooping cough cases drop

England's whooping cough cases have dropped for the second month running, following record numbers of infections in 2012. 

December's figures, published late last week by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), show just over 800 confirmed cases, compared to 1,160 in November 2012. 

“The December figures show another welcome decrease,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, HPA's head of immunisation. 

Dr Ramsay added that there is “usually a reduction in cases of whooping cough at this time of the year”. 

One infant fatality was reported in December, meaning that in less than three months 14 babies have died from whooping cough. 

Young infants have the highest risk of dying from whooping cough, although it affects all ages.

Rates of pregnant women being vaccinated for whooping cough, otherwise known as pertussis, reached 55% in December. 

Dr Ramsay said: “We would like to remind pregnant women how serious this infection can be in young babies.” 

Louise Silverton, director of midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) explained that if pregnant women are vaccinated, their immunity will “cover the baby until they are old enough to get a vaccination.” 

“Many babies die before they can be fully immunised,” she said.

Currently infant can be vaccinated against whooping cough when they are two, three and four months old, as part of the 5-1 vaccine.

However, the highest rates of whooping cough were reported in those ages 15 and over, with a total of 8,059 in 2012 compared to just under 500 in 2008.