Whooping cough suspected outbreaks mapped as five babies die and cases 90 times higher

Baby Riley died in 2015 from whooping cough. His mum Catherine Hughes is now an advocate for vaccination.
Baby Riley died in 2015 from whooping cough. His mum Catherine Hughes is now an advocate for vaccination. -Credit:UKSA - Catherine Hughes

An interactive map shows where hotspots for whooping cough have been reported as confirmed cases in the UK continue to increase.

Tragically, five babies have died between January and March, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed. There have been 1,319 lab-confirmed cases in March. That follows 556 cases in January and 918 in February, bringing the total to 2,793 in 2024.

But most infections of whooping cough, also known as the "100-day cough", will not be confirmed in a lab so this map shows where doctors have reported suspected cases based on symptoms. The most well-known symptom is a cough so severe it's difficult to breathe - babies and young children can sometimes make a "whoop" sound as they gasp for breath in between coughs.


Cases have been rising in England 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.

The number of confirmed cases of whooping cough is currently 93 times higher this year than in 2023. This time last year, there had been just 30 lab-confirmed cases. You can see the suspected cases near you with our interactive map:

While the UKHSA has not released data showing the locations where outbreaks have been confirmed, it is possible to map notifications of whooping cough. These are alerts that GPs are required to send to the UKHSA every time they diagnose a case of what they believe to be whooping cough.

From the first week of January to the end of March, GPs had found 4,853 suspected cases in England, which means about 58% were later confirmed by lab tests. So far this year - up to the week ending April 21 - GPs had diagnosed 6,815 suspected cases in England and another 1,198 in Wales, a total of 8,013.

Nottingham has seen the highest number of suspected cases with 187, followed by Vale of Glamorgan (150), Cardiff (147), Swansea (138), and Northumberland (135).

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist for the UKHSA, said vaccination "remains the best defence". Pregnant women are offered a whooping cough vaccine in every pregnancy between 20 and 32 weeks so their babies are protected straight after birth.

He added: "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."

Catherine Hughes, who lost her baby Riley from Whooping Cough in 2015, told the UKHSA: "It’s shocking to see the recent reports that babies have died from it in the UK. These are deaths that could have been prevented with vaccines that have been available for pregnant women for years.

"Ever since Riley died, we wanted to make a difference in his honour. We are not alone with those feelings – there are many wonderful parent advocates out there who feel like it is their duty to help protect others after their child died from preventable causes, such as pool drownings or household accidents.

"I guess this is just us trying to do our bit. I feel like we failed to protect him, but if we can protect other children then perhaps some good has come out of something so awful."