Private Business Intermediaries

Whooping Cough Outbreak and Vaccine

28/09/2012 | By Peter Walker
Whooping cough has claimed ten babies' lives this year, all under three months old, according to professor Dame Sally Davies the Government's principal medical adviser.

Newborn babies are especially at risk during this outbreak, and before eight weeks are too young to be vaccinated,  As a result the Department of Health is to offer a vaccine to all expectant mothers between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy,  thus passing on immunity to the unborn child, followed by further boosters as part of the child's routine vaccinations.

Dr Rosemary Leonard, appearing on BBC Breakfast, advised that GPs have good stocks of the vaccine which is the same as the jab given routinely to children. Where it's not convenient to get a GP appointment,  private immunisation is an option. 

Whilst prevention via vaccines is the key to future control of the whooping cough outbreak, it's vital that parents watch out  for any signs of the disease, which include:

In the early stages it is very hard to tell whooping cough from a simple cold, yet when developed 
  • Bouts of several coughs in a row, which can be intense and bring up phlegm. 
  • A whoop at the end of the coughing may or may not heard.
  • A child that is sleeping more than normal or not as alert as expected linked to a cough.
  • Redness or exhaustion following coughing. 
Rapid treatment is key in very young children as deterioration can be rapid and sever.  Concerns that GP's will be overwhelmed by anxious parents need to be offset against the severity of the outbreak. 

Advice is as follows : 
  • If your child has a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, dry cough, slightly higher temperature and is looking unwell, treat as you would a cold with paracetamol suspension, however be cautions and seek advice. Be on the lookout for any bouts of coughing or the child becoming increasingly unwell. 
  • During GP surgery hours seek urgent advice if concerned 
  • Out of office hours, or if there is a doubt re the impact of the cough or suspicion of whooping cough, take the child to the nearest children's A&E or adult A&E without delay. If you don't have access to a car or are concerned about rapid worsening, dial 999 for an ambulance. 
The author has treated several young children with croup and whooping cough over the past week and experience is that most children respond well to antibiotic treatment when started early. It is vital that parents do not wait until their child is seriously ill before seeking help. 

Further information is available here or via NHS Direct on 0845 4647.