Whooping cough alert as number of cases grows

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PARENTS across the borough have been issued with a whooping cough warning for their children.

The plea comes as confirmed cases have continued at high levels during November, according to the Health Protection Agency.

Although there were no deaths reported last month, 1,080 people across the country caught the disease, bringing the total number of cases this year to 8,819.

The Department of Health has announced that pregnant women will be offered whooping cough vaccinations to protect newborn babies, instead of waiting until they are two months old as is usual practice.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation at the HPA, said: “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.

“Young infants are at highest risk of severe complications and death from whooping cough as babies do not complete vaccination until they are around four months old.

“Parents should also be alert to the signs and symptoms of whooping cough – which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound in young children but as a prolonged cough in older children or adults.”

Whooping cough is a highly infectious bacterial disease which spreads when a person with the infection coughs and sheds the bacteria which is then inhaled by another person.

Dr Amirthalingam, added: “The recent announcement that at least 40 per cent 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.”