Whooping cough rise prompts vaccination warning

Health Protection Agency is encouraging parents to check that children’s vaccinations are up to date

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A rise in the number of cases of whooping cough in England has prompted the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to warn parents to check that their children’s vaccinations are up to date.

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There have been 665 confirmed cases of whooping cough so far this year, compared to the 1,040 cases in the whole of 2011, according to information by the Health Protection Agency.

Main symptoms of whooping cough include coughing fits in which a “whoop” sound is made. The infection, also known as pertussis, can affect people of all ages but a particular rise has been seen this year in young children who are most at risk of serious complications. Although whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics, babies may need hospital care due to the risk of complications.

This year, 65 cases of whooping cough have been confirmed in babies aged under 3 months, compared to around 35 in a normal year. 

“Parents should ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations at the earliest opportunity. The pre-school booster is also important, not only to boost protection in that child but also to reduce the risk of them passing the infection on to vulnerable babies, as those under 4 months cannot be fully protected by the vaccine,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, the HPA’s head of immunisation, reports The Guardian.

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