Pregnant women urged to get whooping cough vaccination
By Prue_Reid | Wednesday, January 02, 2013, 15:58
HEALTH chiefs are urging pregnant women to get vaccinated and protect themselves and their unborn babies, as cases of whooping cough across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire continue to rise.
Across the south west numbers of confirmed cases are amongst the highest in England - approximately 2.5 times higher than the average. So far in 2012:
* North Somerset has had 73 confirmed cases, compared with six for the whole of 2008.
* Bristol has had 155 confirmed cases compared with 18 for the whole of 2008.
* South Gloucestershire has had 97 confirmed cases compared with nine for the whole of 2008.
According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the past 12 months have seen an exceptionally sharp rise in the number of confirmed cases nationwide and Dr Ruth Kipping, public health consultant for North Somerset, is stressing the vital importance of the whooping cough jab to pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Dr Kipping said: "In North Somerset we estimate that around half of all pregnant women between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy have not yet done so.
"We want to encourage them to contact their GP and arrange to have the jab, without delay."
"Many adults think that whooping cough cannot affect them, particularly if they were themselves immunised as children.
However, it is an illness which can strike adults, as protection offered by the vaccine wears off in adulthood and can be passed onto children with serious results."
Anyone showing signs and symptoms - which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic "whoop" sound in young children, but is a prolonged cough in older children and adults - should visit their GP.
Parents should ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity. Vaccination for whooping cough is given up to 10 years of age.
The pre-school booster is important, not only to boost protection in that child but also to reduce the risk of them passing the infection on to vulnerable babies, as those under four months cannot be fully protected by the vaccine.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, affects all ages.
Over the last few months the recent rise in cases has extended to very young children who have the highest risk of severe complications and death.
This year thirteen infants with whooping cough have died.
Whooping cough in older people can be an unpleasant illness but does not usually lead to serious complications.
The infection can be treated with a course of antibiotics to prevent the infection spreading further but young infants may also need hospital care due to the risk of severe complications.
While antibiotic treatment is effective in reducing the spread of infection it does not reduce the severity of the actual illness.
Earlier this year, the Health Protection Agency wrote to GPs to remind them of the signs and symptoms of the infection and stressing the importance of vaccination.
The agency is also encouraging GPs to report cases quickly. Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol and a Consultant at Bristol Children's Hospital added: "Whooping cough is a terrible illness in young children, especially infants.
Vaccination has made it rare but it has never completely gone away and it now has returned at worryingly high levels.
It is hard, sometimes impossible to treat so we want parents to do everything they can to limit spread both by ensuring their children are fully immunised and, for pregnant mothers, by contacting their GP to receive immunisation."