Public Health England (PHE) is encouraging pregnant women to get immunised against whooping cough, an acute respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, to protect themselves and their babies.
This comes in the wake of recently released surveillance data showing raised numbers of whooping cough notifications in England, with 1,744 cases reported in 2015 to the end of June, compared with 1,412 for the same period in 2014.
“The latest figures show that whooping cough is still prevalent in England and it’s important that pregnant women visit their GP surgery or midwife to get vaccinated, ideally between weeks 28 and 32 of their pregnancy,” says Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE.
Figures published on 3 September 2015 by PHE show that the average uptake of whooping cough vaccine among pregnant women in England for the year to March 2015 was 56.4%.
John Watson, deputy chief medical officer, said: “Deaths in infants with whooping cough have reduced significantly since the introduction of the vaccine for pregnant women in 2012, so I encourage all pregnant women to take up the pertussis vaccine when offered.”
Although whooping cough can affect people of all ages, the highest incidence occurs among infants under three months old. “Being vaccinated against whooping cough while you’re pregnant is a highly effective way to protect your baby in the first few weeks of their life,” adds Ramsay.