Pregnant women are being urged to have the whooping cough vaccination as the number of cases hit seven times last year’s total.
Nationally 7,000 cases have been reported, compared to just over 1,000 last year. In the East of England 186 cases had been reported in the first half of the year compared to 104 in the whole of 2011 and only 26 in 2010.
Yet the department of health says that in spite of a publicity campaign only 40 per cent of expectant mothers are having the jab, though in the East it is 47.2 per cent.
Dr Rakesh Raja, West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group’s lead on children and young persons, said he was seeing an increase in cases at his Sudbury surgery, especially in the last year.
“A generation ago there was an outbreak but the new generation doesn’t remember it,” he said. “Because of vaccination, it died down and has not been a real problem but because in the last two or three years people have not been having the vaccination, it’s in resurgence.”
Pregnant women are being targeted because children under six months old are the most at risk with 13 deaths reported this year.
“It’s babies we’re worried about. If pregnant woman have the vaccination at 28 to 38 weeks they form the antibody and it is passed to the unborn child,” Dr Raja said. “The child doesn’t have the vaccination until the second or third month of life.
“The vaccination hasn’t had any negative associations and it has been around a long time.”
Dr Raja said doctors are offering the vaccination to all pregnant women. “It’s the best thing they can do to protect their child,” he stressed.
The medical name for whooping cough is pertussis because it is caused by a bacterium called bordetella pertussis. It is also called the ‘hundred day cough’ because coughing stays for about three months.
NHS Choices website says: “The condition usually begins with a persistent dry and irritating cough that progresses to intense bouts of coughing. These are followed by a distinctive ‘whooping’ noise. Other symptoms include a runny nose, raised temperature and vomiting after coughing.”
For more information visit www.nhs.uk