Whooping cough: Vaccinations for pregnant women as cases double in Wales

baby being vaccinated Babies are offered a whooping cough vaccine at two, three and four months of age

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Whooping cough vaccinations are being introduced for pregnant women as the number of cases in Wales this year is already more than twice the 2011 total.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) says 154 cases of whooping cough were reported in Wales by the end of August compared to 67 in all of last year.

Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Ruth Hussey says the vaccination will boost protection for newborn babies.

England has seen a four-fold increase to 4,637, including nine baby deaths.

There have been no deaths from whooping cough in Wales this year.

Contagious

The condition is characterised by severe coughing, followed by a gasp or "whoop".

Start Quote

It's vital that babies are protected from the day they are born - that's why we are offering the vaccine to all pregnant women”

End Quote Dr Ruth Hussey Chief Medical Officer for Wales

It can affect people of all ages, but newborn babies are particularly at risk because they are not usually vaccinated before they are two months old.

From October, pregnant women will be told about the vaccine during routine antenatal appointments and offered it at GP surgeries.

Even if women have previously been immunised they will be encouraged to be vaccinated again to boost their immunity, as it helps protect their babies before they can start their own immunisations.

'THE 100 DAY COUGH'

Prestatyn GP Dr Eamon Jessop explains more about the condition

"It is a very unpleasant disease. It's called a 100 day cough in the rest of the world. Primarily, it gives you this long bout of coughing where the cough goes up the scale.

"The main problem is in children under six months of age. It has a particularly unpleasant ability to stop them breathing.

"Most at risk of whooping cough are those under two months who have not had immunisation.

"The epidemic is really starting to climb. I had a suspicion about this last year.

"I had seen quite a few adults coming in who had never smoked, never had bronchitis or asthma and they suddenly get this dreadful hacking cough that keeps them awake at night."

Dr Hussey said whooping cough can be treated successfully with antibiotics and most people make a full recovery, but it is highly contagious.

"Newborn babies are affected most severely by whooping cough, and are most at risk of developing complications," she said.

"Nine infants in England have died as a result of whooping cough this year. There have been no infant deaths associated with the illness so far this year in Wales, but we must not be complacent. It's vital that babies are protected from the day they are born - that's why we are offering the vaccine to all pregnant women."

The programme, intended to be temporary, will be monitored by Public Health Wales and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Whooping cough is a highly infectious bacterial disease which spreads when a person with the infection coughs and sheds the bacteria which is then inhaled by another person.

In older children and adults whooping cough is said to be unpleasant but does not usually lead to serious complications.

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