Monday, July 18, 2011

Whooping cough

Whooping cough

Whooping cough, sometimes referred to as pertussis, is an infection of the lining of the airways. It mainly affects the windpipe (trachea) and the two airways that branch off from it to the lungs (the bronchi).

Whooping cough is highly infectious. The condition is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis, which can be passed from person to person through droplets in the air from coughing and sneezing.

The condition is known as whooping cough because the main symptom is a hacking cough, which is often followed by a sharp intake of breath that sounds like a 'whoop'.
Who is at risk?

Whooping cough usually affects infants and young children, although adults can sometimes develop the condition. Whooping cough tends to be most severe in young infants. In rare cases, it can be fatal.

How common is it?

The introduction of a vaccination programme during the 1950s and the introduction of a pre-school booster jab in 2001 means the annual number of cases of whooping cough in the UK is now very low.

Just under 600 cases of whooping cough were recorded in England and Wales in 2005. Before the introduction of the whooping cough vaccine, the average annual number of cases exceeded 120,000.

Despite the number of cases falling, it is still important that all children have the whooping cough vaccine to prevent future outbreaks of the infection.

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