Whooping cough cases rise in Hertfordshire

MORE than 140 cases of whooping cough have been confirmed in Hertfordshire this year, a massive 500 per cent rise on last year’s figures.

Nine babies have died across England and Wales since the start of the year with the vast majority of Hertfordshire’s cases also being diagnosed to children aged under three months.

In 2010 just seven cases were reported across the whole county, with a small increase to 28 patients in 2011.

The alarming rise means NHS Hertfordshire is urging women who are more than 28 weeks pregnant to have the Repevax vaccine.

The programme provides protection by boosting the short-term immunity passed on by pregnant women to their newborn babies – who normally cannot be vaccinated until they are two months old.

Even if women were immunised during childhood, they are being encouraged to be vaccinated again to boost their immunity, as this helps protect their babies in those early months before they can be immunised.

The director of public health in Hertfordshire Jim McManus said: “Over the last year we’ve seen a large rise in the number of whooping cough cases, the most serious of which are in children too young to be protected by routine vaccinations.

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“If you are pregnant, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect your baby.

“Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be a serious illness.

“The main symptoms are severe coughing fits which, in babies and children, are accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound as the child gasps for breath after coughing.

“Newborn babies are particularly vulnerable so it is vital they are protected from the day they are born, which is why we are offering the vaccine to all pregnant women.”