GPs have been urged by the Health Protection Agency to report cases of whooping cough quickly to stop the spread of infection, as the number of cases of the disease across the country continues to rise.
The number of confirmed cases of pertussis in England and Wales reported to the HPA was 1,781 from January to the end of May 2012, compared to a total of 1,118 cases across the whole of 2011.
So far in 2012, the number of confirmed cases in people over the age of 15 has exceeded expected levels with 1,324 cases to the end of May 2012, compared to 157 cases to the end of May 2008 – the last peak year.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said they were 'very concerned' about the ongoing increase in cases and she had written to GPs to encourage quick reporting.
She added that the HPA was working closely with the Department of Health and the NHS to monitor the situation and make recommendations to control the spread of infection and to raise public awareness of the signs and symptoms.
She said: ‘Whooping cough can be a very serious illness, especially in the very young. In older people it can be unpleasant but does not usually lead to serious complications.'
‘The HPA has written to GPs to remind them of the signs and symptoms of this infection and stress the importance of vaccination.'
‘The agency is also encouraging GPs to report cases quickly to reduce the spread of the infection and make them aware of the HPA's guidance for the management of whooping cough cases.'
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is currently researching whether a booster vaccination in adolescents against whooping cough would be cost effective.