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‘Children need jabs’ following Whooping cough outbreak in North West
A WHOOPING cough outbreak is sweeping through the North West, with doctors warning parents to get their children vaccinated on time.
With 159 cases seen in the region from January to June, there has been a 360 per cent increase on the same six month period in 2008, the last year in which there was also a national outbreak.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways which causes intense bouts of coughing. These are followed by a distinctive 'whooping' noise.
The infection affects all ages, but very young babies have the highest risk of severe complications and death. Five pertussis-related infant deaths have been reported this year in Britain.
To get full immunity children should be vaccinated when they are two, three and four months old and given a pre-school booster at age three years and four months.
Doctors fear children are being put at risk because parents are putting off immunisation or they do not believe the vacinations are worthwhile. Dr Sam Ghebrehewet, of the Health Protection Agency, said: “Whooping cough is an unpleasant illness that can last for weeks and in extreme cases it can result in death.
“The best way to avoid suffering in the child and anguish in the rest of the family is to stick rigidly to the vaccination schedules.”
Dr Kenneth Lamden, lead consultant in communicable disease control for the North West, said about 90 to 95 per cent of all children are immunised at the correct times, and that there are three main reasons why immunisations are delayed.
He said: “The first is that the child is unwell with a high temperature or evidence of general infection, so immunisation is unsuitable.
“The second is what I would call ‘parental reasons’, where the parent might be unwell, the family might be on holiday, they might be struggling to get to the GP, or there is another factor deemed more important.
“Thirdly, a reason might be that a GP clinic is full, the practice nurse is off, or appointments fail to go out.”
In England and Wales as a whole, 2,466 cases have been reported to the HPA so far this year, more than double the total for 2011 when 1,118 cases were reported.
Increases were observed in all regions of the country.
Dr Lamden said that an outbreak is normally seen every four years.