Three babies died of whooping cough last month amid the biggest outbreak in 20 years, the Health Protection Agency has announced. Thirteen babies under the age of three months have now died as a result of the infectious disease this year.
Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said:
Whooping cough is highly contagious and infants are particularly vulnerable. Thirteen infants have died as a result of whooping cough this year and there have been nearly 400 cases of the disease in children under three months old. It's vital that babies are protected from the day they are born - that's why we are encouraging all pregnant women to be vaccinated.
Health officials recently announced that all pregnant women will be vaccinated against whooping cough in an attempt to combat the infection and protect newborns.
Responding to last month's figures on the outbreak, Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation at the HPA, said:
The October figures show a continuing rise in the overall number of whooping cough cases. While there has been a decline in the number of infant cases it's important to emphasise that it's too early to see any impact from the pregnancy vaccination programme. Working with the Department of Health, we are continuing to carefully monitor whooping cough activity to evaluate the success of the programme.