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Fresh warning over whooping cough as cases rise

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Fresh warning over whooping cough as cases rise

Health experts have issued a fresh warning over whooping cough after a substantial rise in cases in England.

Nine babies so far are known to have died between November and the end of May, while new data shows 2,591 cases of the disease were recorded in May alone.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) urged pregnant women to have the whooping cough jab to protect their babies, while parents should check their youngsters are up-to-date with all their immunisations.

It comes as NHS data for England shows the overall waiting list for planned treatment – such as knee and hip replacements – has risen for the second month in a row.

An estimated 7.6 million treatments were waiting to be carried out at the end of May, relating to 6.38 million patients – up slightly from 7.57 million treatments and 6.33 million patients at the end of April.

The list hit a record high in September 2023 with 7.77 million treatments and 6.50 million patients, after which the figures began to fall, before showing an increase in both April and May this year.

The UKHSA published details on whooping cough cases for England, showing there were 555 cases in January, 920 in February, 1,427 in March and 2,106 in April.

May saw 2,591 cases confirmed, bringing the total number of cases from January to May 2024 to 7,599.

In the whole of last year, there were 858 cases, the UKHSA said.

Pregnant women are offered the whooping cough vaccine in every pregnancy, ideally between 20 and 32 weeks, which offers 92% protection against babies dying from the disease.

All babies are given three doses of the six-in-one combined vaccine at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age to protect against whooping cough and other serious diseases such as diphtheria.

Young babies are known to be at highest risk of the severe complications and death caused by whooping cough.

From January to May this year, while most cases (53% or 4,057) were in people aged 15 years or older who usually get a mild illness, some 262 were in babies under three months who are at greatest risk from infection, the UKHSA said.

Whooping cough is known to peak every three to five years, but the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means there is reduced immunity to the disease in the population.

Other figures show declining numbers of women accepting the jab in pregnancy, with 58.9% having the vaccine in March.

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of immunisation at the UKHSA, said: “Vaccination is the best defence against whooping cough and it is vital that pregnant women and young infants receive their vaccines at the right time.

“Pregnant women are offered a whooping cough vaccine in every pregnancy, ideally between 20 and 32 weeks.

“This passes protection to their baby in the womb so that they are protected from birth in the first months of their life when they are most vulnerable and before they can receive their own vaccines.

“If you have any questions or concerns about the vaccination please speak with your midwife or GP or a trusted health professional.

“With cases continuing to rise and sadly nine infant deaths since the outbreak began last November, ensuring women are vaccinated appropriately in pregnancy has never been more important.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with those families who have so tragically lost their baby.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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