THERE have been 49 confirmed cases of whooping cough in East Lancashire this month, new figures have revealed.

The condition has been blamed for the death of three babies in Wales and had not been reported in East Lancashire so far this year.

The number of case is a dramatic increase from last year when just two cases were confirmed across the area.

Nationally figures published by the Health Protection Agency show that cases of whooping cough have continued at high levels with 1,080 confirmed cases reported for England and Wales, which is down on previous months. No deaths were reported in November.

In the NHS Blackburn with Darwen area there were four cases and in the NHS East Lancashire area, covering Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale and Ribble Valley, there were 45 cases confirmed. In total there were 13 ‘unconfirmed’ cases.

At the end of September, the Department of Health announced that pregnant women would be offered whooping cough vaccination to protect their newborn babies, who do not usually start their vaccinations against whooping cough until they are two months of age. The aim of the vaccination programme is to help to boost the short term immunity passed on by women to their babies while they are still in the womb.

The Lancashire Telegraph reported immunisation rates in Blackburn with Darwen were on target but the take-up figures for whooping cough and measles jabs across NHS East Lancs were not.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, affects all ages. Young infants are at highest risk of severe complications and death from whooping cough as babies do not complete vaccinations until they are around four months old.

In older children and adults whooping cough can be an unpleasant illness but it does not usually lead to serious complications.

Whooping cough is a highly infectious bacterial disease which spreads when a person with the infection coughs and spreads the bacteria which is then inhaled by another person.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam said: “Parents should also be alert to the signs and symptoms of whooping cough – which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic ‘whoop’ sound in young children, but as a prolonged cough in older children or adults.”