Whooping cough cases rise in Devon and Cornwall

Doctor and baby
Whooping cough is spread by coughs and sneezes [Getty Images]

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

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

The bacterial illness can be life-threatening for newborn babies.

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 across England and Wales.

Five babies are now known to have died from the disease across England between January and March.

Newborn babies did not have any protection unless their mothers were vaccinated in 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.

"Newborn babies don't have any immunity at all, and we can't vaccinate them until they're eight weeks old.

"The disease is spread by coughs and sneezes, so, if someone comes into contact with them, say, just to hold them, they can get it and it can be quite catastrophic."

Vaccination uptake has been falling across the country, and in Cornwall.

The latest statistics show the county was below the national average, with England seeing a 59.5% take-up and Cornwall only 54.2%.

Devon had seen a 68.1% take-up recently, the UKHSA said.

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