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Whooping cough epidemic reaches 190 cases in Cumbria
DOCTORS in Cumbria have confirmed the 190th case of whooping cough in the county, as the national epidemic continues to spread.
Health experts have, this week, made renewed calls to pregnant women and parents to protect their children from the highly contagious infection.
There has been an increase in cases both nationally and locally - with 1,322 people infected in September in England and Wales, bringing the total to 6,121 this year.
The Health Protection Service has reported that this year’s outbreak, which first surged at the end of last year, is already the worst for more than a decade.
For maximum immunity, youngsters need jabs at two, three and four months old then a pre-school booster when they’re three years old.
Experts say getting vaccinated while pregnant can help to protect the unborn baby from developing whooping cough after it is born, in its first few weeks of life.
Jane Morphet, immunisation co-ordinator for NHS Cumbria, said: “We are pleased that pregnant women over 28 weeks are contacting GP practices to arrange for whooping cough booster vaccination.
“There seems to be a good understanding amongst the pregnant women that having the vaccine will enable them to pass protection to the unborn baby, thus protecting them until they are old enough to be vaccinated.”
Both vaccines are free for all pregnant women 28-38 weeks into their pregnancy and can be given at the same time as flu vaccine. It is preferable to give the vaccines in different arms.
Any women less than 28 weeks should have the flu vaccine now to protect the mother from flu, and later this protection will also pass to baby. They should them be advised to return at 28 weeks for Repevax to ensure new born baby gains some protection against whooping cough.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. It usually begins with a persistent dry and irritating cough that progresses to intense bouts of coughing. These are followed by a distinctive 'whooping' noise, which is how the condition gets its name.
The main symptoms are severe coughing fits which, in babies and children, are accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound as the child gasps for breath after coughing.
The infection can be treated with a course of antibiotics to prevent the infection spreading further but young infants may need hospital care.
Associate Director of Public Health for NHS Cumbria, Nigel Calvert said: “Babies and infants have limited immunity to infection and whooping cough can make them very ill indeed, so it is essential that children are immunised as soon as they reach the appropriate age for the vaccine. All too often we’ve seen vaccinations delayed, perhaps because of holiday commitments, and babies remain vulnerable in that period.
“My message to parents is that they should make the vaccination of their children, at the right time, a priority. Whooping cough is an unpleasant illness that can last for weeks and in extreme cases it can result in death. The best way to avoid suffering in the child and anguish in the rest of the family is to stick rigidly to the vaccination schedules.”