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Five Babies Die As Whooping Cough Cases Rise In England

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Five Babies Die As Whooping Cough Cases Rise In England

The swift increase in cases of whooping cough has resulted in the death of five babies in England, according to health experts.

More than three times as many whooping cough cases as were reported in all of last year have been reported in England thus far in 2024 (almost 2,700 cases).

According to recent data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 2,793 instances had been registered as of the end of March. In contrast, there were 858 cases in 2023 as a whole.

Five baby fatalities have occurred between January and the end of March, according to the UKHSA. Dr. Gayatri Amirthalingam, a consultant epidemiologist with the UKHSA, stated: “Whooping cough can affect people of all ages, but for very young babies it can be extremely serious.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with those families who have so tragically lost their baby.”

The preliminary data indicates that 1,319 instances were reported in March alone.

The lungs and breathing passages are impacted by the bacterial infection commonly referred to as pertussis. Because whooping cough spreads so rapidly and can take a long time to heal, it is sometimes referred to as the “100-day cough.”

In January, 556 cases were reported, and in February, 918 cases. To provide their unborn children with protection that should endure until they are old enough to receive their vaccination, pregnant mothers are being advised to take advantage of the whooping cough vaccine offer.

A total of 108 infants younger than three months old were diagnosed with whooping cough between January and the end of March.

Those 15 years of age and older accounted for about 51% of instances throughout this time.

According to medical professionals, whooping cough is a “cyclical disease,” meaning that it peaks every few years. This occurs every three to five years in cases of whooping cough.

The coronavirus pandemic caused instances to drop to extremely low levels, therefore the current peak is “overdue,” according to the UKHSA, which noted that the last significant spike occurred in 2016.

It also stated that there is “reduced immunity in the population” as a result of the epidemic.

Additionally, according to UKHSA, fewer people are getting vaccinations these days, including children and pregnant women.

“Vaccination remains the best defense against whooping cough, and pregnant women and young infants must receive their vaccinations at the right time,” Dr. Amirthalingam continued.

The NHS advises that all expectant mothers receive a whooping cough vaccination between 16 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. The vaccine provides immunity that helps protect newborns during the first few weeks of life by crossing the placenta.

A newborn is provided the six-in-one vaccination, which includes a whooping cough vaccination when they are eight weeks old. At 12 weeks, the second dosage of the vaccination is administered, and at 16 weeks, the third.

Children will be able to get the four-in-one preschool booster, which offers pertussis protection when they become three years and four months old.

According to Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director of the NHS in England, “With cases of whooping cough continuing to rise sharply across the country, and today’s figures sadly showing five infant deaths, it is vital that families come forward to get the protection they need.

“If you are pregnant and have not been vaccinated yet, or your child is not up-to-date with whooping cough or other routine vaccinations, please contact your GP as soon as possible, and if you or your child show symptoms ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111.”

According to the UKHSA, whooping cough initially presents with symptoms comparable to a cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat. However, after a week or so, the infection can progress to short-lived coughing fits that are usually worse at night.

Also Read: WHO Is Looking Into Deaths Linked To Cough Syrup

Although not all babies make these sounds, which makes whooping cough difficult to diagnose, young babies may also exhibit breathing difficulties or make the characteristic “whoop” sound after coughing.

Senior research researcher in global health at the University of Southampton, Dr. Michael Head, commented on the numbers, saying, “This new data alas illustrates just how serious whooping cough is – it can and does kill babies.

“Whooping cough can have a very long infectious period of around two to three weeks, i.e. the period when an infected individual can transmit the bacteria to others. Thus, there may be plenty of opportunities for people to mix, transmission to occur, and for there to be an infection of a vulnerable individual, such as a baby.

“A high coverage of vaccination is vital in reducing transmission within populations. Vaccine uptake in young children and expectant mothers during pregnancy is so important. The vaccine is safe and extremely effective.”

According to Professor Andrew Preston of the University of Bath’s Milner Centre for Evolution, the news of the five infant deaths is deeply upsetting, particularly considering that whooping cough is a condition that may be prevented with vaccination.

“Pertussis vaccination protects the babies and infants who are most vulnerable to this serious, and sometimes fatal, disease, even though no vaccine is perfect.”

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