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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Big drop in number of whooping cough cases

Cases of whooping cough have halved, but health bosses are reminding prospective Cumbrian mums of the importance of vaccination.

New figures released by Public Health England (PHE) show that there were 95 laboratory-confirmed cases of the illness in Cumbria and Lancashire last year.

This included 80 cases in people aged 15 and over, seven aged 10 to 14, and three aged one to nine.

There were an additional five cases in babies who were less than three-months-old.

The figures show a dramatic reduction compared with 2012, when the region saw a total of 165 cases. Again, most of these – 165 – were in the 15 and over age group, with 11 in the under-three month category.

The large change is being attributed to the temporary vaccination programme announced by the Department of Health in September 2012, in response to an ongoing whooping cough outbreak.

Pregnant women have been offered the whooping cough vaccine between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy since October 1, 2012.

Despite the positive reduction in numbers, the 2013 figures are still one-third higher than the 2011 statistics, and health bosses are urging pregnant women to take up the vaccination.

Vaccinating against whooping cough in pregnancy enables the mother to transfer a high level of whooping cough antibodies (immunity) to her unborn child.

This is to protect their baby against disease from birth until they receive their first dose of vaccine at two months of age.

PHE’s head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay said: “The continued reduction in cases of whooping cough in young infants is welcome news, but unfortunately we still confirmed the infection in three babies who died in 2013.

“The babies were too young to have been vaccinated themselves and none of their mothers had been vaccinated in pregnancy. Although we have also seen a decline in cases in older children and adults between 2012 and 2013, the numbers still remain considerably higher than in 2011 suggesting that the infection is still circulating.”

Whooping cough affects all ages and is highly infectious.

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