Cough cases rise by sixfold

Plea: Dr Ken Lamden
Plea: Dr Ken Lamden
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The number of cases of whooping cough reported in Preston this year now stand at more than six times the total number last year, latest figures revealed today.

Health bosses say there have been 26 reported cases of the highly contagious illness so far this year compared to just four during the whole of 2011.

The huge increase has led to fears for babies who are too young to be immunised as there have been 10 baby deaths around the country this year.

Expectant mums are being urged to get themselves protected with a vaccine which will also protect themselves against diphtheria, tetanus and polio.

Dr Ken Lamden, consultant in health protection at the Health Protection Agency for Cumbria and Lancashire, said: “We know that 10 babies have died in the UK so far this year after becoming ill with whooping cough because they are too young to be vaccinated and protected against it.

“Babies are more at risk of whooping cough as their airways are tiny and become blocked.

“The reason pregnant women are being offered the whooping cough vaccination between 28 and 38 weeks is to boost their maternal antibodies against whooping cough and allow them to be passed on to the unborn baby.

“This will mean that when the babies are born, they will have protection against whooping cough until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.”

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. The medical term is pertussis.