Devon cases of potentially deadly 100-day whooping cough on the rise

Whooping cough can sometimes be very serious (Alamy/PA)
Children are facing serious health risks as cases of whooping cough rise -Credit:Alamy/PA

The number of cases of the highly infectious and potentially dangerous whooping cough are rising in Devon. A total of 14 cases of the so-called 100-day cough have been reported by doctors in the county in the week ending May 12.

Cases of whooping cough, a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes, are increasing across the UK with 2,793 confirmed infections in the first three months of this year and five confirmed infant deaths. The drastic increase in the UK is thought to be due to a fall in the number of children being vaccinated against the disease combined with falling immunity as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns.

In the week ending May 5, there had been nine cases of whooping cough reported by doctors in Devon. Figures show that there had been only six cases in Devon in the week ending April 14.


Of the most recent cases, five are in East Devon, three are in South Hams and three are in Teignbridge. There are single cases of whooping cough in Exeter, Mid Devon and North Devon.

The disease is so serious and so contagious that doctors are required to notify the UK Health Security Agency whenever they suspect a patient has it. The UKHSA says that it is vital that families are vaccinated against the disease.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, a consultant epidemiologist for the UKHSA, said: “Vaccination remains the best defence against whooping cough and it is vital that pregnant women and young infants receive their vaccines at the right time.

"Pregnant women are offered a whooping cough vaccine in every pregnancy, ideally between 20 and 32 weeks. This passes protection to their baby in the womb so that they are protected from birth in the first months of their life when they are most vulnerable and before they can receive their own vaccines.

“All babies are given three doses of the 6-in-1 jab at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age to protect against whooping cough and other serious diseases such as diphtheria and polio with a pre-school booster offered at three years four months. 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 NHS says that, if you or your child has whooping cough, the following symptoms will emerge after about a week:

  • coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are worse at night

  • a "whoop" sound – a gasp for breath between coughs (young babies and some adults may not "whoop")

  • difficulty breathing after a coughing bout and may turn blue or grey (young infants)

  • coughing up a thick mucus, which can make you vomit

  • becoming very red in the face (more common in adults)

The NHS advises people to ring their GP or call 111 in the following cases:

  • your baby is under six months old and has symptoms of whooping cough

  • you or your child have a very bad cough that is getting worse

  • you've been in contact with someone with whooping cough and you're pregnant

  • you or your child has been in contact with someone with whooping cough and have a weakened immune system