Whooping cough kills eighth baby as cases rise in England

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Experts have urged the English public to get vaccinated following the deaths of several babies from whooping cough.

Eight babies have died since January as the disease has spread across the country.

Nearly 4,800 cases have been recorded so far this yearwith the numbers increasing every month.

This is a significant increase compared to 2022, when 858 cases were reported for the entire year.

Labs confirmed 1,888 cases of whooping cough in England in April, the most recent month ever.

Scientists fear cases of the potentially fatal disease will continue to rise and have urged eligible members of the public to get vaccinated.

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough, also known as whooping cough, is a respiratory disease caused by an infection with the Bordetella pertussis bacteria.

Symptoms can progress over a period of weeks from cold-like sniffles and low-grade fever to violent, uncontrolled coughing fits. Severe attacks can lead to vomiting and even broken ribs.

People with whooping cough may experience coughing fits for weeks due to lingering damage from an infection.

Infants are especially vulnerable to the disease. They can also show different symptoms in older children and adults.

Babies don’t tend to cough, but can experience dangerous pauses in breathing called apnea. This can be life-threatening, According to the CDC. They may have trouble breathing and even turn blue.

Antibiotics can help reduce the severity of a whooping cough infection, but they must be taken early to be effective. Because early symptoms can resemble those of a common cold, this window is often missed.

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Protection against whooping cough

Hand washing and other hygiene practices can help prevent the spread of respiratory infections. But vaccination is the best way to protect against whooping cough.

In Britain, babies are offered several whooping cough shots as part of their standard vaccination schedule.

Given how vulnerable babies are to the disease, pregnant women are also offered free injections that can protect their growing offspring.

“The immunity generated in the mother passes to the unborn child and has proven to be effective in protecting young babies during the critical period after birth, when they are too young to have generated their own immunity through vaccination of infants,” Andrew Preston of the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom told me Scientific Media Center.

Why are the cases so high?

Outbreaks of whooping cough usually occur in cycles of 3 to 5 years. The last rise in cases in Britain occurred in 2016, with the last serious outbreak in 2012.

The pandemic, which saw a decline in the number of cases of various respiratory diseases as people stayed home and took other infection prevention measures, is also likely to have influenced this pattern. But this year’s numbers are still worrying.

“While an increase in cases was expected as other respiratory infections have recovered from the very low levels seen during the pandemic, the scale of the current outbreak is alarming,” Preston said.

Increasing cases indicate that the bacteria that causes whooping cough is circulating more rapidly in the population, he added.

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A decline in vaccination rates is also likely to affect the spread of the disease.

“Vaccination rates for both mothers and babies have declined in recent years, leaving more babies vulnerable to this devastating infection,” Preston said. “The very sad news of further child deaths due to whooping cough highlights the current high risk of infection and has prompted a renewed plea from [government] on the need to boost vaccine uptake.”

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