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Whooping cough incidence rates increase in UK

Category: Infectious Diseases

Recent figures released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed that the rates of whooping cough in England and Wales remained high during November, according to Medical News Today. While the number of confirmed whooping cough cases decreased from 1,631 in October to 1,080 in November, the source noted that the total number of people who contracted the disease (8,819) is the highest it's ever been since the 1990s.

November went by with no deaths attributed to the disease, but 13 infants have died since the outbreak began in 2011.

The reduced number of patients with whooping cough does not necessarily indicate that the outbreak is nearing its end, but the HPA reports that whooping cough incidence usually declines at certain times of the year and the disease is following normal seasonal trends.

"The November figures show a welcome decrease of whooping cough cases since October. However, it is very important to note that we usually see a reduction in cases of whooping cough at this time of year so this decrease is in line with normal seasonal patterns," said Gayatri Amirthalingam, HPA's consultant epidemiologist for immunisation, as quoted by the news source.

Whooping cough facts
Whooping cough, which is also known as pertussis, is an upper-respiratory infection that is caused by highly contagious bacteria. The name of the disease comes from the sound patients make when trying to breathe during coughing fits, reports the National Institutes of Health.

The initial symptoms of whooping cough are usually the same as the common cold, which first become apparent after the bacteria is contracted. About 10 to 12 days after the initial symptoms become apparent, coughing begins, which can lead to a loss of consciousness or even vomiting. Other symptoms include a runny nose, a slight fever and diarrhea.

Diagnosis and treatment
While physicians can usually identify whooping cough from the sounds a patient makes, sometimes it can be difficult to diagnose, especially in infants, who may appear to have pneumonia. To provide an accurate diagnosis, a healthcare provider may take a sample of mucus and have a lab test administered on it. Patients may also have a complete blood count test done on them.

If the antibiotic erythromycin is administered early enough, the disease can be treated easily, but many patients receive treatment too late and the medicine may be ineffective, although it can help prevent the patient from spreading the bacteria to others.


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