You probably haven't noticed, but we're in the middle of an outbreak that has claimed the lives of five babies so far this year. Whooping cough, you may think, is a disease of the past. Well it isn't.

In June, there were 675 new confirmed cases, bringing the total this year to 2466, more than double the total for the whole of last year.

Whooping cough goes in cycles - the last outbreak was in 2008. But then there were only 421 cases in the first six months -- this time there have been five times as many. And 186 of those this year have been in infants.

The government's expert advisers on vaccination are so worried, they've recommended vaccination for health care workers treating young babies to stop them passing the disease on to infants (who are the most vulnerable group).

They're thinking about vaccination for pregnant women to prevent them transmitting the infection to their new-borns.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the Health Protection Agency, said: “Whooping cough can spread easily to close contacts such as household members. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect people from this infection and uptake of the vaccine in the UK is very good.

"In addition to this, parents should ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity."