More than 7,700 whooping cough cases have been reported in England and Wales this year, almost 10 times the number seen in the last peak year for the illness in 2008, the Health Protection Agency said.
The number of cases in October reached 1,614, bringing the total for the year to 7,728 including 13 infant deaths, the agency said today in an e-mailed statement. Almost 800 cases were reported in 2008, according to the HPA. More than 80 percent of the 2012 cases are in people age 15 and older.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly infectious bacterial disease that spreads when an infected person coughs and another person inhales the bacteria, the HPA said. Infants have the greatest risk of severe complications and death because babies don’t finish their vaccination regimen until they are four months old. Pregnant women are being offered the vaccine in the U.K. to confer some protection to newborns, the HPA said.
Children fully inoculated against pertussis become more susceptible to the illness over time as the vaccine’s protective effect wears off, a U.S. study found. The vaccine, known as DTaP, which also inoculates against diphtheria and tetanus, is sold in the U.S. by GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Sanofi.