Whooping cough and the vaccine: what you need to know
All pregnant women are to be offered the whooping cough vaccine in a bid to combat the large outbreak of the infection in the UK.
The decision comes after the death of nine babies.
There are three times more cases in the general population than there were last year, the NHS says. In the first seven months of this year 235 babies under 12 weeks of age had whooping cough. Of them, nine died.
Find out everything you need to know about the infection and the vaccine here:
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. The medical term for whooping cough is pertussis.
Whooping cough 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.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of whooping cough usually take between six and 20 days to appear after infection with the Bordetella pertussis bacterium.
In adults and older children:
In adults and older children, the paroxysmal symptoms of whooping cough are far less severe than in young children, and may appear more like symptoms of a milder respiratory infection, such as bronchitis.
The condition usually begins with a persistent dry and irritating cough which progresses to intense bouts of coughing.
These are followed by a distinctive 'whooping' noise. Babies don’t always make this noise.
Other symptoms include a runny nose, raised temperature, watering eyes, a sore throat and vomiting after coughing. The coughing can last for around three months.
Whooping cough tends to develop in stages, with mild symptoms occurring first, followed by a period of more severe symptoms, before improvement begins.
When more severe symptoms occur - often called the paroxysmal stage – suffers will experience intense bouts of coughing, which bring up thick phlegm, and a 'whoop' sound with each sharp intake of breath after coughing.
Suffers are also likely to vomit after coughing, especially if they are an infant or young child.
They will often be tired and and red-faced from the effort of coughing.
Each bout of coughing usually lasts between one and two minutes, but several bouts may occur in quick succession and last several minutes. Sufferers will usually experience between 12 and 15 bouts a day.
In infants and young children: Infants younger than six months may not make the 'whoop' sound after coughing, but they may start gagging or gasping, and may temporarily stop breathing.
Though very rare, it is possible for whooping cough to cause sudden unexpected death in infants. Click here to read more.
Young children may also seem to choke or become blue in the face when they have a bout of coughing. This looks worse than it is, the NHS assures, and breathing will quickly start again.
When should I seek medical advice?
You should always see your GP if you think you or your child may have developed whooping cough, to be prescribed antibiotics.
Immediate medical attention should be sought if you have a baby of six months or younger who appears to be very unwell; you or your child appears to be experiencing significant breathing difficulties such as extended periods of breathlessness; or you or your child develops serious complications such as seizures or pneumonia.
Under these circumstances call your GP immediately. If this is not possible, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or your local out-of-hours service.
How is whooping cough diagnosed?
In adults: By asking about your symptoms and listening to the cough, a GP will usually be able to diagnose whooping cough.
Sometimes they will need to confirm the diagnosis by taking a blood test to check for antibodies to the whooping cough bacterium.
A diagnosis can also be confirmed by taking a sample of mucus from the back of the throat with a swab.
In babies: Whooping cough can be severe in babies, so if a young baby is thought to have it they may need to be diagnosed in hospital, where they will be given any necessary treatment.
I’m pregnant. Why do I need the vaccine?
The immunity you get from the vaccine will pass to your baby through the placenta. Therefore getting vaccinated may help to protect your baby from developing whooping cough in his or her first few weeks of life.
Babies are not vaccinated against whooping cough until they are two months old.
Babies who get whooping cough can develop severe complications such as pneumonia and brain damage, and when it is severe they can die. Most babies who contract the infection will need hospital treatment.
When should I have the vaccine?
All pregnant women will now be offered vaccination against whooping cough when they are 28-38 weeks pregnant.
The ideal time to get vaccinated to protect your baby is between 28 and 32 weeks.
When you're vaccinated, your body produces antibodies to protect against the disease. Being immunised between 28 and 38 weeks offers the best chance of your baby receiving as many anti-whooping cough antibodies as possible across the placenta.
You can still have the vaccine after 38 weeks, but this may not protect your baby from whooping cough, as your body might not have enough time to produce the antibodies before your baby is born.
Nevertheless, being vaccinated after 38 weeks will help protect you from whooping cough and from passing it on to your baby.
You can have the whooping cough vaccine when you get the flu vaccine, but do not delay your flu jab so that you can have both at the same time. Pregnant women are at risk of severe illness from flu at any stage of pregnancy.
Even if you were vaccinated against whooping cough as a child, you’ll still need to get vaccinated again.
The NHS explains this is because any protection you may have had through either having whooping cough or being vaccinated when you were young is likely to have worn off, so there’s little or no protection to pass on to your baby.
If you are vaccinated during your pregnancy and then get pregnant again, you will need to be vaccinated again in your new pregnancy between 28 and 38 weeks.
What will happen?
You will only need one dose, and as it is not a ‘live’ vaccine - meaning it doesn't contain whooping cough – it can’t cause whooping cough in women who have the vaccine, or in their babies.
Regardless of when you have the vaccine your baby will still need to be vaccinated as normal when he or she reaches two months old.
Is it safe?
The NHS states there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine is unsafe for mother or baby if used in pregnancy.
“The vaccine, called Repevax, has not been clinically tested on pregnant women because clinical trials don’t usually involve pregnant women,” the website reads.
“For this reason, evidence on safety in pregnancy can be limited. A similar vaccine has been used in America in pregnant women, and there is no evidence of risk to the health of the pregnant woman or the baby.
“Repevax has been used in the UK childhood immunisation programme since 2004, and has an excellent safety record. All of the components in the vaccine have been given singly or in combination to pregnant women without any evidence of harm to the mother or her baby”.
A vaccine against only whooping cough is not available. It’s part of a vaccine that also protects against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. The other components in the vaccine will not place you or your baby at any additional risk, and will not give you any of these illnesses, says the NHS.
How can I get the vaccination?
You should be offered the vaccination at a routine antenatal appointment when you are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant.
If you are already 28 weeks pregnant you may have your vaccination at your next routine appointment with your midwife. If you wish to have it sooner, you can make an appointment with your GP.
If you’re 28 weeks pregnant or more, and you haven’t heard from your midwife or GP about the whooping cough vaccine, contact them to discuss having the vaccination.
To read more about whooping cough, click here.
To find out more about the vaccination in pregnant women, click here.