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Whooping cough cases continue to rise

If you’re pregnant getting vaccinated gives your child the best protection against whooping cough. Getting vaccination is quick and easy. Speak to your midwife or contact your GP practice.

New data published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows cases of whooping cough continue to rise.

Whooping cough cases have been rising across England, as well as in many other countries, since December 2023 due to a combination of factors. Whooping cough is a cyclical disease that peaks every 3 to 5 years. The last cyclical increase occurred in 2016. However, in common with other diseases, cases fell to very low numbers during the pandemic due to restrictions and public behaviours. A peak year is therefore overdue. The impact of the pandemic also means there is reduced immunity in the population.

Uptake of vaccinations that protect against whooping cough have fallen in recent years across the country – in both the programme for pregnant women and the infant programme. Timely vaccination in pregnancy and in infancy are both important to protect vulnerable young babies from serious disease.

Whooping cough, clinically known as pertussis, is a bacterial infection which affects the lungs. The first signs of infection are similar to a cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat, but after about a week, the infection can develop into coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are typically worse at night. Young babies may also make a distinctive ‘whoop’ or have difficulty breathing after a bout of coughing, though not all babies make this noise which means whooping cough can be hard to recognise.

If anyone in your family is diagnosed with whooping cough, it’s important they stay at home and do not go into work, school or nursery until 48 hours after starting antibiotics, or 3 weeks after symptoms start if they have not had antibiotics. This helps to prevent the spread of infection, especially to vulnerable groups, including infants. However, vaccination remains the best protection for babies and children.

Find out more about whooping cough symptoms, vaccination and treatments at NHS.uk