Worst epidemic of whooping cough in 20 years!

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By sarahlnewall | Friday, December 21, 2012, 09:54

PARENTS are being warned not to delay their child's pre-school booster vaccine after new figures reveal a slight drop in uptake in Derbyshire during the worst epidemic of whooping cough in 20 years.  

Pre-school booster vaccines are offered to all children from aged three years, four months onwards, and provide protection against whooping cough as well as six other serious illnesses.

And although the injection is given as a 'top-up' to the first set of injections which are given to babies soon after they are born – health bosses from NHS Derbyshire County say the pre-school booster is vital in helping young children combat the highly infectious disease.  

According to the Health Protection Agency, 13 babies under the age of three months have died as a result of the whooping cough in the UK this year, with almost 8,000 reported cases for the first ten months of the year – ten times more than in the same peak period in 2008.  

There have been over 140 cases of whooping cough reported in Derbyshire alone between January and September this year and children who have not yet received their preschool vaccine are at particular risk of catching the disease. 

In October, the outbreak led the Department of Health to introduce an emergency vaccination programme to women who are 28 weeks pregnant or over, to reduce the spread of the disease in babies too young to begin their own course of vaccines, via the mother's immunity.

Jane Careless, immunisation coordinator for NHS Derbyshire County, said:

 "Whooping cough is an extremely infectious disease, which can cause serious complications particularly in young children. The current epidemic is the worst we've faced in 20 years, so we're urging all parents and carers to help us combat this disease by making sure their child has their pre-school booster vaccine on time. 

"Postponing the vaccine could leave young children at greater risk from the disease, as immunity given from the first set of vaccines will naturally start to wane.

"Many parents will be at home with their children over the Christmas and New Year holiday, so we're urging parents and carers to call their GP surgery and book an appointment to get their child vaccinated."

Latest figures show that uptake of the pre-school vaccine in Derbyshire has dropped nearly two per cent and is now at around 92 per cent.

Whooping cough starts off as a flu-like illness (cough, sneeze, runny nose). This is then followed by intensive bouts of a dry cough which can be followed by the 'whoop' sound, or gasping for air. Young babies in particular can be severely affected by whooping cough and it can cause significant damage to their lungs. At its worst it can cause babies to temporarily stop breathing, result in pneumonia, weight loss, brain damage and even death.

Expectant mothers in week 28 of pregnancy are advised to contact their GP or midwife for further information about the Department of Health's temporary vaccine programme. 

Further information about whooping cough and the vaccine for pregnant women can be found at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Whooping-cough/Pages/Introduction.aspx." target="_blank">www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Whooping-cough/Pages/Introduction.aspx.

A list of key dates of vital childhood jabs can be found at http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/vaccinations/Pages/Vaccinationchecklist.aspx." target="_blank">http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/vaccinations/Pages/Vaccinationchecklist.aspx.

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