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Home News centre National Press Releases 2012 Press Releases ›  HPA welcomes introduction of whooping cough vaccination for pregnant women as outbreak continues

HPA welcomes introduction of whooping cough vaccination for pregnant women as outbreak continues

28 September 2012

1,230 cases of whooping cough in England and Wales were reported to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in August 2012, bringing the total number of cases so far this year to 4,791*, according to figures published today (Friday).


The total number of cases so far in 2012 (up to end of August) is now more than four times higher than the annual total number of cases reported in 2011 (1,118) and in 2008 (908) – the last ‘peak’ year before this current outbreak.

In August there were a further three pertussis-related deaths in infants aged three months and under, bringing the total number of deaths in this age group so far this year to nine. The Department of Health has today announced pregnant women** will be offered the whooping cough vaccination to protect their newborn babies, who are not usually vaccinated until between two and four months. This will boost the short term immunity passed on by women to their babies while they are still in the womb.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: “We have been very concerned about the continuing increase in whooping cough cases and related deaths. We welcome the urgent measure from the Department of Health to minimise the harm from whooping cough, particularly in young infants, and we encourage all pregnant women to ensure they receive the vaccination to give their baby the best protection against whooping cough.

“It’s also important we continue to remind all parents to ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough to continue their protection through childhood. Parents should also be alert to the signs and symptoms – which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound in young children but as a prolonged cough in older children or adults. It is also advisable to keep babies away from older siblings or adults who have the infection.”

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, affects all ages. Young infants are at highest risk of severe complications and death from whooping cough as babies do not complete vaccination until they are around four months old. In older children and adults whooping cough can be an unpleasant illness but it does not usually lead to serious complications. Whooping cough is a highly infectious bacterial disease which spreads when a person with the infection coughs and sheds the bacteria which is then inhaled by another person.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1.  The 4,791* total of laboratory confirmed whooping cough cases reported to the HPA are provisional. These provisional numbers reflect the total cases which have been tested and then confirmed as positive. In some instances, for example in an outbreak situation, the HPA may not necessarily receive samples for testing from every suspected case and therefore the true number of confirmed cases may be higher.

2.  Pregnant women** will be offered whooping cough vaccination between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy.

3.  Annual laboratory confirmed cases of pertussis in England and Wales since 2008:

  • 2012 – 4,791* cases (to end of August)
  • 2011 - 1,118 cases
  • 2010 - 421 cases
  • 2009 - 722 cases
  • 2008 - 902 cases

4.  Provisional number of confirmed cases of pertussis by region in England and Wales, 2008 to 2012: January to 31 August:

Region

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

EAST MIDLANDS

48

38

16

59

576

EAST OF ENGLAND

58

45

14

64

515

LONDON

68

62

29

54

350

NORTH EAST

34

14

28

46

195

NORTH WEST

69

60

39

57

301

SOUTH EAST

124

110

40

88

972

SOUTH WEST

112

81

44

65

843

WEST MIDLANDS

56

30

10

33

318

YORKSHIRE & Humber

41

37

26

35

567

WALES

17

24

7

24

154

Grand Total

627

501

253

525

4791

5. Provisional number of confirmed cases of pertussis, England and Wales, 2008 to 2012 by age group, January to 31 August:

Age group

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

less than 3 months

140

82

41

115

302

3-5 months

27

20

7

19

63

6-11 months

6

1

2

6

18

1-4 years

19

19

7

9

38

5-9 years

14

19

9

11

95

10-14 years

104

72

31

61

496

15+ years

317

288

156

304

3778

Not Known

 

 

 

 

1

Total

627

501

253

525

4791

6.  For the Department of Health’s press release on changes to vaccination schedule visit: http://mediacentre.dh.gov.uk/ [external site]

7.  For more general information and data on whooping cough (pertussis) visit the HPA website  or http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/whooping-cough/Pages/Introduction.aspx [external site]

8.  The Health Protection Agency’s Guidelines for the Public Health Management of Pertussis can be found on the website. These are being updated.  

9.  The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. In April 2013 the Health Protection Agency will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website: www.hpa.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @HPAuk or ‘Like’ us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealthProtectionAgency

10.  For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email colindale-pressoffice@hpa.org.uk. Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.

 

Last reviewed: 28 September 2012