Published: December 5, 2012
Doctors urge whooping cough vaccinations after surge in cases

Doctors have this week urged pregnant women in the Burnham-On-Sea area to have the whooping cough vaccination and parents to ensure their children are vaccinated against the disease after a surge in cases across Somerset.

New figures published this week by the Health Protection Agency show that in the first ten months of this year there were 53 infant cases of whooping cough in Somerset compared with just six cases during the last 'peak' year of 2008.

This trend is reflected nationally, with almost 8,000 cases of whooping cough confirmed for England and Wales this year - a figure which is nearly ten times higher than for the same period in 2008 when 797 cases were reported.

NHS Somerset says young infants can be at the highest risk from whooping cough with severe complications even leading to death.

Julie Yates, Public Health Consultant with NHS Somerset, told "Getting vaccinated while pregnant should help to protect babies from developing whooping cough in their first few weeks of life."

"The immunity that is gained from the vaccine will pass to the baby through the placenta. Babies are not vaccinated against whooping cough until they are two months old."

"We also strongly recommend all women make sure their children receive their whooping cough vaccinations on time. Parents need to be alert to the signs and symptoms of whooping cough. These include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic 'whoop' sound in young children."

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. It spreads when a person with the infection coughs and sheds the bacterium which is then inhaled by another person.

The condition usually begins with a persistent dry and irritating cough which progresses to intense bouts of coughing. Other symptoms include a runny nose, raised temperature and vomiting after coughing.

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