Whooping Cough Kills Eighth Baby As Cases Surge In England

News Room

Experts have urged the English public to get vaccinated after the deaths of several infants from whooping cough.

Eight babies have died since January as the disease has spread through the country.

Nearly 4,800 cases have been recorded so far this year, with figures rising every month.

This is a sharp rise from 2022, when 858 cases were reported over the entire year.

Laboratories confirmed 1,888 whooping cough cases in England in April, the most recent month on record.

Scientists fear cases of the potentially deadly disease will continue to rise and have urged eligible members of the public to get their shots.

What is whooping cough?

Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a respiratory illness caused by infection with the Bordetella pertussis bacteria.

Symptoms can progress from cold-like sniffles and low-grade fever to violent, uncontrolled coughing fits over a period of weeks. Severe fits can lead to vomiting and even broken ribs.

People with whooping cough may continue to experience coughing fits for weeks because of lingering damage from an infection.

Infants are particularly vulnerable to the disease. They may also present with different symptoms to older children and adults.

Babies don’t tend to cough, but may experience dangerous pauses in breathing called apnea. This can be life-threatening, according to the CDC. They may struggle to breathe and even turn blue.

Antibiotics can help reduce the severity of a whooping cough infection, but they need to be taken early on to have an effect. Because early symptoms can resemble those of a regular cold, this window is often missed.

Protection against whooping cough

Hand-washing and other hygiene practices can help prevent the spread of respiratory infections. But vaccination is the best way to protect against whooping cough.

In the U.K., infants are offered several whooping cough shots as part of their standard vaccination schedule.

Given how vulnerable babies are to the disease, pregnant women are also offered free shots which can protect their growing offspring.

“Immunity generated in the mother passes to the unborn child and has proven effectiveness at protecting young babies during the critical period after birth when they are too young to have generated their own immunity from infant vaccination,” Andrew Preston from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath told the U.K.’s Science Media Centre.

Why are cases so high?

Whooping cough outbreaks tend to occur in 3-5 year cycles. The U.K.’s last rise in cases took place in 2016, with the last serious outbreak back in 2012.

The pandemic, which saw rates of several respiratory diseases fall as the public stayed home and took other infection prevention measures, is also likely to have influenced this pattern. But this years figures are still concerning.

“While an increase in cases had been expected, as other respiratory infections have rebounded from the very low levels observed during the pandemic, the size of the current outbreak is alarming,” Preston said.

Rising cases suggest the bacteria that causes whooping cough is circulating at an increasing rate in the population, he added.

A fall in vaccination rates is also likely impacting the spread of the disease.

“Rates of vaccination of both mothers and infants have decreased over recent years, leaving more babies vulnerable to this terrible infection,” Preston said. “The very sad news of further infant deaths from whooping cough highlights the current high risk of infection and have prompted the renewed plea from [government] regarding the need to boost vaccine uptake.”

Read the full article here

Share this Article
Leave a comment