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Big rise in whooping cough in the East

The number of cases of whooping cough in the East of England has increased nine-fold in past year in the biggest outbreak of the infection for 20 years. So far this year there have been 943 cases in the region compared with just 104 in the whole of 2011.

Nationally three babies died of whooping cough in October according to the Health Protection Agency bringing the total this year to 13. The number of confirmed cases in England and Wales this year is now 7,728. In 2011, the total number of cases was 819.

Click here for more information about whooping cough from the NHS website

Advice on spotting whooping cough

Pregnant women are to be vaccinated against whooping cough after the biggest outbreak of the illness for two decades claimed the lives of nine babies.

While whooping cough can cause nasty symptoms in adults, it does not usually cause any long-lasting complications and can be treated with antibiotics. In the very young, whooping cough can be a serious illness and can lead to death in some cases.

Babies and children can often make a distressing "whoop" sound while gasping for air after a coughing fit. Older children and adults tend to suffer a prolonged cough.

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Parents surprised by new advice on whooping cough

A big rise in whooping cough cases has prompted the government to offer a jab to expectant mothers Credit: ITV Anglia / Megan Boot

At a 'Bumps & Babies' group in Cambridge, parents were surprised to hear the advice about whooping cough vaccinations. Several of them had only recently given birth & said that had they known about the dangers they would have had the vaccination.

The Department of Health say that regardless of whether you've had a vaccination before, women who are 28 - 38 weeks pregnant should get the vaccine. It means that the protective antibodies the mother gets are passed onto her baby.

That should give the child enough cover until they can start their own immunisation at around two months' old. From Monday, women across the country will be offered the vaccination.

The vaccine, Repevex, is the same one given as a booster to three year olds. The Department of Health has confirmed that extra stocks have been provided to cater for expectant mums.