Whooping cough makes a comeback


Katie Lodge, who got whooping cough at nine weeks, ended up in hospital

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The sound of a baby struggling for breath with whooping cough is as distressing as it is distinctive. A hacking cough is often followed by silence and then the long "whoop" as they are finally able to breathe in.

It is what happened to Katie Lodge from Weston-super-Mare just before she was due her first immunisation. She ended up on oxygen in hospital. You can hear her parents talking about her illness in the above video.

The surge in cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, is largely among adolescents and adults. They tend to have a less severe illness (although it can still be debilitating).

But this surge means more babies are at risk of the bacterial infection - five have died this year.

Babies are not fully protected until their third dose of vaccine at four months. Children get a pre-school booster. Vaccination coverage is high but immunity gradually wanes.

So far in 2012 there've been 2,398 cases of the bacterial infection in the UK, compared with just 272 in the same period last year.

Why have cases of whooping cough shot up? No-one is sure why; better testing and increased surveillance explain part but not all of the rise.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation - whose recommendations apply across the UK - has been considering how to deal with the resurgence of whooping cough.

One option is a booster dose in adolescence. Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, agrees that a new strategy is required.

He told me: "Giving a booster to adolescents is one thing that might help, but other things being considered are immunising parents of newborn babies, pregnant women or health care workers."

For Katie's parents, Claire and Jon Lodge, her illness was a frightening time. They hope to raise awareness of the infection and the importance of getting babies immunised promptly, so that they're protected as early as possible.

Fergus Walsh, Medical correspondent Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination.

    It's quick, clean and simple. Without vaccination it's a return of many kinds of ancient disease that our doctors no longer trained to recognise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    My 15 year old son currently has whooping cough which was diagnosed on his third G.P. visit when I suggested the possibility.The coughing fits when he felt his airway closing, followed by vomiting, are classic symptoms I wonder how many cases are mis diagnosed.
    A booster immunisation program is needed to prevent this debilitating illness .

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    @04 'Rhyfelwyr'
    I commend you for your forthright post. There are many adolescents and adults right now, in the UK, who are vulnerable to the 'Tony Blair syndrome' of their parents losing trust in vaccinations.

    I have two grown up children born in the 1980s who had all their combined vaccinations via our local GP surgery - both are healthy and working in professional occupations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I have to agree with 'BluesBerry'. In addition, as international travel increases, it's becoming even more crucial to ensure we, as adults, are all fully vaccinated along with our children.

    Many 'advanced' nation's populations and governments have become dangerously complacent on basic vaccinations to defend against many ancient life threatening diseases that are still with us and circulating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Having lived in Singapore where vaccination is required for entry into school/college/nursery & for work permit, I find the attitude here baffling. The cost of vaccination is far, far less then the cost of treating the infection. A booster program is urgently needed for Whooping Cough & a more comprehensive & mandatory vaccination policy generally.


Comments 5 of 27



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