Whooping cough cases are said to be spiking in the UK with experts warning of the serious consequences of the infection. Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes with early symptoms similar to those of a cold.
Over 700 people may have been infected with whooping cough in England and Wales between July and November, up from 217 for the same period in 2022, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Hotspots are in south east England and the West Midlands, though the UKHSA says confirmed cases of whooping cough are lower now than they were in the years before the Covid pandemic.
Babies under six months old who have whooping cough have an increased risk of developing dehydration, breathing difficulties, pneumonia and seizures, according to the NHS.
Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, a consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said before the introduction of routine immunisation, whooping cough used to affect tens of thousands of people.
She added: “Thanks to vaccination this has dropped dramatically, but the infection hasn’t gone away completely as neither infection nor vaccination can provide life-long protection.”
Dr Amirthalingam explained that social distancing and lockdown measures imposed across Britain during the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the spread of infections, including whooping cough.
She said: “As expected, we are now seeing cases of whooping cough increase again so it’s vital pregnant women ensure they get vaccinated to protect their baby.”
A whooping cough vaccine is routinely given as part of the six-in-one vaccine for babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks. It is also part of the four-in-one pre-school booster for children aged three years four months.
Pregnant women should also have the whooping cough vaccine, ideally between 16 and 32 weeks.
The NHS says whooping cough is not as severe in older children and adults although coughing can cause sore ribs, hernia, middle ear infections and pee leaking out when you cough.
Early signs of whooping cough are a runny nose and sore throat. After about a week, you or your child will get coughing bouts which last for a few minutes and are worse at night.
Some sufferers can make a “whoop” sound as they gasp for breath between coughs. They may have difficulty breathing after a coughing bout and may turn blue or grey. The coughing can last for several weeks or even months, according to the NHS.
A thick mucus, which can make you vomit, might also be brought up, with adults especially prone to becoming very red in the face.
News of the relative rise in whooping cough cases comes as figures show the number of people in hospital in England with winter viruses such as norovirus and flu is “creeping up”.
Health chiefs have warned of further increases and growing pressure on emergency departments as the NHS faces the combined impact of cold weather, social mixing at Christmas parties and looming strike action by junior doctors.
Figures published as part of a weekly snapshot of how the NHS in England is performing this winter show the number of people in hospital with flu has risen week-on-week, but remains well below levels seen at this stage in 2022.
An average of 243 flu patients were in hospital beds in England each day last week, including nine in critical care, up 52 percent from 160 the previous week.
The total stood at 772 at this point last year and rose sharply throughout December 2022 as the UK experienced its worst flu season for a decade.
People have been urged to book their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible, ahead of the closure of the national booking system next week.
Post source: Express