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Published On: Sat, Dec 1st, 2012

Health Protection Agency reports more than 1,600 pertussis cases in England and Wales in October

The latest figures for pertussis, or whooping cough in England and Wales were released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) Friday, which showed that the total number of cases so far in 2012 (up to end of October) is nearly ten times higher than for the same period in 2008, according to an HPA press release Nov. 30.

England, Wales

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In the month of October, health officials reported 1,614 cases of whooping cough  in England and Wales, bringing the total for 2012 to 7,728 cases reported to date.

In addition, were three deaths in infants with laboratory confirmed whooping cough reported in October bringing the total number of deaths in this age group so far this year to 13.

To put the magnitude of the whooping cough epidemic in England and Wales in perspective, in 2011 there were 1,118 cases, in 2010 (422 cases), 2009 (719 cases) and in 2008 there were 902 cases reported.

“The October figures show a continuing rise in the overall number of whooping cough cases, says  Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist for immunization at the HPA.

“While there has been a decline in the number of infant cases it’s important to emphasize that it’s too early to see any impact from the pregnancy vaccination program. Working with the Department of Health we are continuing to carefully monitor whooping cough activity to evaluate the success of the program.”

Amirthalingam continues, “We strongly recommend all pregnant women take up the offer of vaccination. Parents should also 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.”

Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis. This vaccine-preventable disease is spread through direct contact with respiratory discharges via the airborne route.

Pertussis goes through a series of stages in the infected person; initially an irritating cough followed by repeated, violent coughing. The disease gets its nickname by coughing without inhaling air giving the characteristic high-pitched whoop. Certain populations may not have the typical whoop like infants and adults.

It is highly communicable, especially in very early stages and the beginning of coughing episodes, for approximately the first 2 weeks. Then the communicability gradually decreases and at 3 weeks it is negligible, though the cough my last for months.

Those that are not immunized are susceptible to this disease. Young infants and school aged children (who are frequently the source of infection for younger siblings) are at greatest risk.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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