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Whooping Cough


Health chiefs in North Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire are warning of the dangers of whooping cough and the need to ensure children’s vaccinations are up to date, following a rise in confirmed cases since January.


North Somerset has had 23* confirmed cases since Jan 2012, In contrast, last year, there were a total of 5 cases. There have already been 31 confirmed cases in Bristol so far this year, compared with a figure of 29* for the whole of 2011, although an NHS Bristol spokesman added that caution should be used when drawing conclusions on the apparent increase, as there had been increased levels of testing this year. Meanwhile South Gloucestershire has reported 26* cases so far this year. This compares with a total of 8 for the whole of 2011.  Bath and North East Somerset has reported 9* cases since January.


 According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the past 12 months have seen a sharp rise in the number of confirmed cases nationwide and Dr Ruth Kipping, public health consultant for North Somerset today stressed the vital importance of ensuring that children are vaccinated against what can be, for them, a serious, life threatening illness.


She explained: “Many adults think that whooping cough cannot affect them, particularly if they were themselves immunised as children. However, it is an illness which can strike adults, as protection offered by the vaccine wears off in adulthood and can be passed onto children with serious results.  Anyone showing signs and symptoms – which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound in young children, but is a prolonged cough in older children and adults – should visit their GP.


 “Parents should ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity. Vaccination for whooping cough is given up to 10 years of age. The pre-school booster is important, not only to boost protection in that child but also to reduce the risk of them passing the infection on to vulnerable babies, as those under four months cannot be fully protected by the vaccine.”


Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, affects all ages. Over the last few months the recent rise in cases has extended to very young children who have the highest risk of severe complications and death. Whooping cough in older people can be an unpleasant illness but does not usually lead to serious complications. The infection can be treated with a course of antibiotics to prevent the infection spreading further but young infants may also need hospital care due to the risk of severe complications.  While antibiotic treatment is effective in reducing the spread of infection it does not reduce the severity of the actual illness.

The Health Protection Agency has already written to GPs to remind them of the signs and symptoms of the infection and stressing the importance of vaccination. The agency is also encouraging GPs to report cases quickly.

Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol and a Consultant at Bristol Children’s Hospital said: Whooping cough is a terrible illness in young children, especially infants. Vaccination has made it rare but it has never completely gone away and it now showing worrying signs of coming back. It is hard, sometimes impossible to treat so we want parents to do everything they can to limit spread by ensuring their children are fully immunised."

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Press Release issued by Karen Daniel For more information please contact her on 01275 546895 or at





* The case figures for whooping cough in 2012 are as reported to the HPA’s South West (North) Health Protection Unit to the end of May.

Vaccination is the most important control measure in preventing whooping cough. Children in the UK are offered whooping cough vaccine at two, three and four months of age as part of the routine childhood vaccination programme.

The vaccine which protects against whooping cough also protects against diphtheria, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b - a cause of meningitis - and tetanus. Children should receive a booster at around three years of age, before they start school. It is important that children receive all these doses so that they can build up and keep high levels of immunity to the disease.  The whooping cough vaccine is routinely available up to age 10.  Routine vaccination is not recommended for children aged ten years or over, and adults.

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