Whooping cough: Three more deaths confirmed in England - as cases continue to rise sharply

Three more babies have died after developing whooping cough in England.

Eight infants have died between January and April 2024, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). This is three more than the previously reported figure for the year so far.

Health officials are urging pregnant women to get the whooping cough vaccine.

In England, provisionally there were 4,793 laboratory-confirmed cases reported to the UKHSA between January and April with 555 cases in January 2024, 920 in February, 1,430 in March and 1,888 cases in April.

The UKHSA said the first signs of whooping cough are similar to a cold, but after about a week more symptoms can develop.

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Throughout the whole of 2023, the UKHSA said there were 858 recorded cases of whooping cough.

Last month health officials said five babies in England died after being diagnosed with the infection.

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said at the time the data "illustrates just how serious whooping cough is - it can and does kill babies".

He added a fall in vaccinations "will be a key factor contributing to this rise in cases of whooping cough," and noted that it "is as infectious as measles, and more infectious than COVID-19".

Whooping cough can be called the "100-day cough" because of how long it can take to recover from it, and it spreads very easily.

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Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said cases of whooping cough were "continuing to rise sharply".

"It is vital that families come forward to get the protection they need," he added.

"We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated to help protect their babies in the first few weeks of their life - parents should also ensure that their children get protected in the first few months after birth as part of the routine NHS vaccine offer."

When a baby is eight weeks old, they are offered the six-in-one vaccine which includes protection against whooping cough.