Whooping Cough cases continue to rise


New data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that whooping cough cases continue to rise. In March 2024, there were 1,319 confirmed cases nationwide. This is higher than the 556 cases in January and 918 cases in February. Altogether there have been 2,793 cases reported so far in 2024.


Sadly, five babies have died from whooping cough in the first three months of 2024. Babies are at the most risk of getting very sick or dying from whooping cough. Updated estimates of vaccine effectiveness in pregnancy show high levels of protection (92%) against infant death.

While the majority of cases (50.8% or 1,420) were in people aged 15 years and older during this period, the rate of whooping cough remains highest among babies under three months of age.

The data also shows that fewer people are getting vaccinated against whooping cough in recent years. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy and when babies are born is really important. It helps protect vulnerable young babies from serious illness.

Angela Hartley, GP Partner at Headlands Surgery and Medical Director for Lakeside Healthcare, said: "Vaccines are still the best way to protect against whooping cough. The new numbers show how important it is for our patients who are pregnant and young people to get vaccinated when they can."

“Our pregnant patients are offered a whooping cough vaccine at their routine appointment, usually between 20 and 32 weeks. Vaccines can be given at the practice, and some local antenatal clinics may also offer it. If you are not offered it, talk to your midwife or GP and make an appointment. It is important—the vaccine protects babies in the womb and after they’re born, when they are most vulnerable and before they can get their own vaccine.”

“As part of the NHS routine vaccination schedule, all babies are given three doses of the 6-in-1 vaccine at 8, 12, and 16 weeks old to safeguard against whooping cough and other serious diseases like diphtheria and polio. A pre-school booster is offered at 3 years and 4 months. I ask all of our patients who are parents to check whether their child has received these vaccinations and to speak with their midwife or GP if they have not and make an appointment.”

Whooping cough can spread easily. Symptoms usually start with cold-like symptoms, like a runny nose and sore throat. After a week, the infection can develop into coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are worse at night. Some babies and adults may make a ‘whoop’ sound and have difficulty breathing after coughing. For a full list of symptoms, go to the NHS website: Whooping cough - NHS (www.nhs.uk). If you are experiencing these symptoms, contact your GP or call NHS 111.

Published: May 20, 2024