31/10/2012

Whooping Cough Cases Highest In 20 Years

Cases of whooping cough are the highest in 20 years, according to the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency (PHA).

221 cases for this year up to 30 September have been confirmed. This is a substantial increase on 2011’s total of just 15.

30 cases were confirmed last month alone.

This increase follows a pattern of "sharp rise" throughout the whole of the UK, where cases are at a 20-year high.

Children are among the most affected, accounting for 137 of cases for this year, up until the end of September.

Whooping cough’s main symptoms include coughing fits and a "whoop" sound, particularly in children, as the sufferer gasps for breath.

PHA has urged pregnant women and parents of young children to ensure vaccinations are fully up to date.

"The increase in whooping cough incidents is in line with England, Wales and Scotland, where cases of the disease reported to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) have also shown sharp rises," PHA said.

Pregnant women in Northern Ireland were offered a vaccination at the end of September by Health Minister Edwin Poots.

PHA consultant in health protection Dr Richard Smithson said: "Newborn babies are likely to have little or no protection against whooping cough until they have been fully vaccinated themselves.

"The vaccination of pregnant mothers will help to protect children from birth until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves, as antibodies passed from the pregnant mother to her unborn child should provide some protection to the baby in the first few weeks of life."

(IT)

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