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Pertussis in the United Kingdom

16 Aug 2012

The media has reported on an increase in pertussis (whooping cough) cases in Scotland in 2012. To date, 873 cases have been reported by GPs, of those, 60 have been under 1-year-of-age. During the same time period in 2011, 36 cases of pertussis were reported; current figures are the highest in Scotland for 25 years.

Health Protection Scotland first highlighted the increasing incidence of pertussis in April 2012, when 150 laboratory confirmed cases were reported at that time. Pertussis cases tend to increase every three or four years, although the number of cases in Scotland this year exceeds the number reported in the last peak year in 2008. Officials predict that the current outbreak has not yet peaked.

Waning immunity in adults is thought to be contributing to the recent upsurge in pertussis cases in the UK and other developed countries such as the US, New Zealand and Canada.

Booster doses of pertussis containing vaccine is being considered by the JCVI for adolescents and pregnant women.

Advice for Travellers

It should be confirmed that children have received their recommended doses of pertussis vaccine according to the national childhood schedule. At present booster doses of pertussis vaccine are not recommended for older children and adults in the UK.