Eight babies die this year as whooping cough cases continue to soar in UK

Whooping cough cases have risen sharply in the UK
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Eight babies have died so far this year from whooping cough as England sees a worrying increase in cases.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has released the latest figures, revealing a sharp rise with 2,591 confirmed cases in May. This follows on from 555 cases in January 2024, 920 in February, 1,427 in March, and 2,106 in April, bringing the total to 7,599 cases from January to May this year.

Eight babies have died this year, adding to another loss in November 2023 as mums-to-be are being strongly encouraged to get vaccinated to safeguard their newborns.

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Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Immunisation at UK Health Security Agency, emphasised the importance of vaccination: "Vaccination is the best defence against whooping cough and it is vital 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."

She continued, explaining the benefits for newborns: "This passes protection to babies in the womb so 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. If you have any questions or concerns about the vaccination please speak with your midwife or GP or a trusted health professional.", reports the Mirror.

With the number of cases on the rise and the devastating news of nine infant deaths since last November's outbreak, Dr Ramsay stressed: "With cases continuing to rise and sadly nine infant deaths since the outbreak began last November, ensuring women are vaccinated appropriately in pregnancy has never been more important. Our thoughts and condolences are with those families who have so tragically lost their baby."

Whooping cough is experiencing a resurgence, peaking every three to five years, with cases on the rise across England and globally since December 2023. The last significant increase was in 2016, but the pandemic saw numbers plummet due to restrictions and changes in public behaviour.

With an expected peak year overdue, there's now a concern over reduced immunity among the population.

Kate Brintworth, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, has expressed her concerns: "The rise in whooping cough cases over the past six months, including several infant deaths, is of real concern and I would urge pregnant women to get vaccinated to help protect their babies in the first few weeks of their life. You can speak with your GP or maternity team if you have any questions about the vaccine."

She further emphasised the NHS's commitment: "The NHS is continuing to identify areas at greater risk and put robust local vaccination offers in place, supporting maternity services and GP practices to do all they can to protect women and babies and make every contact count."

Brintworth also highlighted the accessibility of the vaccine: "Women can access the vaccine, which also protects against diphtheria and tetanus, through their GP or some antenatal services, and parents should also ensure that their children get protected in the first few months after birth as part of the routine NHS vaccine offer."