UK officials confirm five babies have died so far this year from whooping cough

It has been confirmed that five babies have died from whooping cough so far this year in England.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed that 1,319 cases were reported in England in March, with the majority being found in babies under three months old.

This is a significant rise from the previous month, as just over 900 were discovered in February. In total, around 2,800 babies were diagnosed with the condition in the first three months of this year.

The growing rate of cases has made officials concerned that 2024 could be a significant year for the bacterial infection. 

2016 was the last time that whooping cough peaked in England, as 5,949 cases were recorded during that year.

According to the NHS, whooping cough can cause serious illness for babies and infants. The condition, which is clinically known as pertussis, usually begins similar to a cold, with a runny nose and sore throat. However, after a week, it can develop into lengthy coughing bouts, which are typically worse at night.

A vaccine is available for the condition, but the UKHSA has noted that they have noticed a slower uptake in pregnant women and children, with the recent Covid pandemic being a factor.

Speaking about the importance of vaccination, UKHSA representative Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam explained: "Vaccination remains the best defence against whooping cough and it is vital that pregnant women and young infants receive their vaccines at the right time. Whooping cough can affect people of all ages, but for very young babies it can be extremely serious. Our thoughts and condolences are with those families who have so tragically lost their baby."