Whooping cough in Cornwall cases spike after slow start

Infections of whooping cough continue to rise with more suspected cases in two weeks than all last year - and our map shows how the outbreak has affected Cornwall. The county had only three cases in 2024 by the start of February, followed by several weeks without any, and then a big spike with 24 in April (see full table below of all cases in Cornwall this year).

During the week ending May 12, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) was sent 921 notifications of possible whooping cough infections in England and Wales. These are alerts that GPs are required to send to the UKHSA every time they diagnose a case of what they believe to be the “100-day cough”.
The previous week, GPs sent 1,098 notifications to the UKHSA, adding up to more than 2,000 cases in two weeks. That is more suspected cases of whooping cough than there were all last year (1,728).

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So far this year, as of May 12, there have now been more than 11,000 suspected cases of whooping cough, which is around six times as many as there were all last year.
In Cornwall, GPs diagnosed three suspected cases of whooping cough in the latest week, and five the previous week, a total of eight in two weeks. That brings the total number of suspected cases seen in Cornwall so far this year to 43.

In 2023, just seven suspected whooping cough infections were seen in Cornwall all year.

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You can see the suspected cases in Cornwall compared to everywhere else with our interactive map.

(see full table below of all cases in Cornwall this year)


It comes after the UKHSA confirmed that five babies, who are most at risk of severe complications, died after becoming infected with whooping cough in the first three months of the year. As of March the end of March, 2,993 whooping cough infections have been confirmed by lab tests in England alone so far this year.

By the end of March 2023, there had been just 30 lab-confirmed cases. That also shows that 58 per cent of suspected cases seen by doctors in England up to March were later confirmed by lab-tests.

Cases of whooping cough in Cornwall week-by-week so far this year:

Week number

Week ending

Whooping cough notifications

Week 1

January 7, 2024

0

Week 2

January 14, 2024

0

Week 3

January 21, 2024

1

Week 4

January 28, 2024

1

Week 5

February 4, 2024

1

Week 6

February 11, 2024

0

Week 7

February 18, 2024

0

Week 8

February 25, 2024

0

Week 9

March 3, 2024

0

Week 10

March 10, 2024

0

Week 11

March 17, 2024

1

Week 12

March 24, 2024

3

Week 13

March 31, 2024

4

Week 14

April 7, 2024

1

Week 15

April 14, 2024

11

Week 16

April 21, 2024

4

Week 17

April 28, 2024

8

Week 18

May 5, 2024

5

Week 19

May 12, 2024

3

Total


43



Cases have been rising due to a “combination” of factors, including the cyclical nature of the disease and the impact and isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic which led to reduced immunity in the population. Vaccine uptake has also fallen in recent years - leaving many children unprotected from the infection.
Four in 10 expectant mothers do not take the maternal pertussis vaccination, which protects unborn babies from whooping cough, while about one in 12 infants do not receive the 6-in-1 jab by their first birthday.
Whooping cough - clinically known as pertussis, but sometimes known as the “100 day cough” due to the length of time it takes to shake it off - is a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes. It spreads very easily and can sometimes cause serious problems.

Pharmacist Navin Khosla, of NowPatient, said: “For many years, whooping cough has been known as an infection which mainly affects children who haven’t been vaccinated and although cases are still mostly amongst children, whooping cough can infect adults who have been vaccinated, but the protection from the vaccine has started to fade.
“In most cases, whooping cough will present symptoms very similar to a common cold, such as a runny nose and a sore throat, but these symptoms will intensify over the course of a week. Around seven days after being infected with whooping cough, longer coughing bouts will take hold and are most common during the night. As well as this, the intensity of the coughing bouts can cause breathing difficulties and produce thick mucus.
“The best protection against whooping cough is to have children vaccinated and for adults to accept booster vaccines where applicable. However, if you do become infected and experience symptoms including vomiting, difficulty breathing and you notice your face turning red or blue, seek medical attention. In most cases, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed by your GP, but the symptoms could last several weeks or months.”
NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “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.”