A WHOOPING cough outbreak across Sussex is continuing to spread.
There have been 254 reported cases so far this year, eight times the number recorded for all of 2011.
In 1066 Country the figure now stands at 18 when there was only one case in the whole of last year.
East Sussex alone has risen from seven in 2011 to 101 so far this year.
Babies are at highest risk of severe complications and death from whooping cough, also known as pertussis.
Parents are being urged to make sure they are up to date with their baby’s vaccinations to help control the outbreak. Jamie Whitburn, spokesman for NHS Sussex said: “Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. It usually begins with a persistent dry and irritating cough which progresses to intense bouts of coughing. These are followed by a distinctive ‘whooping’ noise which is how the condition gets its name.
“Other symptoms include a runny nose, raised temperature and vomiting after coughing.
“Whooping cough can be treated successfully with antibiotics and most people make a full recovery.”
In the UK, children are vaccinated against whooping cough at two, three and four months of age, and again before starting school at about three years and four months.
Mr Whitburn added: “Although the number of cases of whooping cough has fallen dramatically since vaccination began, it is still possible for children to get the infection, so having the vaccination is vital.”
Dr Angela Iversen, director of the Surrey and Sussex Health Protection Unit, said: “Increases in levels of whooping cough are seen every three to four years and figures in 2011 were in line with cases reported in the last peak year of 2008.
“However, we are very concerned about the continuing increase in cases noted in 2012.
“The uptake of the vaccine which protects against whooping cough is very good but it is a highly infectious disease so when there is a case it can spread quickly.
“GPs have also been reminded to report cases quickly and been made aware of the Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) guidance to help reduce the spread of infection. This improved awareness may be contributing to the increase in numbers of laboratory confirmed cases.
“Parents should ensure that their children are vaccinated on time so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity and be alert to the signs and symptoms.
“We also advise parents to keep their babies away from older siblings or adults who have the infection.
“The Department of Health’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is considering the most effective ways to tackle the ongoing outbreak and a number of options are under review.”
These include the introduction of a booster dose in teenagers and protecting new-born babies by either vaccinating them and their families and/or women during pregnancy.
People can speak to their GP for more information or log onto www.nhs.uk.