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Pertussis in the United Kingdom

11 Jul 2012

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has reported a ten-fold increase in pertussis (whooping cough) cases in 2012, compared with 2010. Pertussis cases increase worldwide every 3-4 years and the last major outbreak in the UK was in 2008, when 900 infections were recorded. Almost 1800 adults and children have been diagnosed with pertussis in 2012, and 5 children have died as a result.

The HPA suggests that the increase in cases may be due both to waning immunity in adults and a greater awareness among health professionals with more frequent diagnosis. Pertussis vaccine coverage in the UK is 96.3% for children aged 2 years.

This current spike in pertussis cases is persisting longer than expected as increases are usually seasonal from Autumn until Spring.

Advice for Travellers

It should be confirmed that children have received their recommended doses of pertussis vaccine according to the national childhood schedule. At present booster doses of pertussis vaccine are not recommended for older children and adults in the UK.