Whooping cough cases increase in Devon and Cornwall

Jen Smith,Special correspondent for BBC South West

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Whooping cough is spread by coughing and sneezing

The number of suspected whooping cough cases in Devon and Cornwall last month was more than double the 2023 total, according to the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA).

Forty-seven infections were suspected in Devon and Cornwall in April, compared to 20 in the 12 months last year, according to its latest figures.

The bacterial disease can be life-threatening for newborns.

All pregnant women are eligible for the whooping cough vaccine after 16 weeks.

“Catastrophic contact”

A total of 2,793 confirmed cases of whooping cough have been reported so far this year in England and Wales.

We now know that five babies have died from the disease in England. between January and March.

Newborns have no protection unless their mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy, midwives said.

Charlie Perkin, a midwife at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, said: “I don’t think many people know how serious it can be.

“Newborns have no immunity and we cannot vaccinate them before they are eight weeks old.

“The disease is spread through coughs and sneezes, so if someone comes into contact with them, for example just from holding them, they can catch it and that can be quite catastrophic.”

The vaccination rate has fallen across the country and in Cornwall.

The latest statistics show the county was below the national average, with England recording a turnout of 59.5% and Cornwall just 54.2%.

Devon recently recorded a 68.1% shareholding, the UKHSA said.

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