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Worrying rise in Sussex whooping cough cases
Sussex is in the grip of the biggest whooping cough outbreak for nearly 20 years.
There have been 142 reported cases in the county so far this year, four times the number recorded for the whole of 2011.
Those affected are mainly adults and children but some very young babies have also been struck down by the illness.
Health bosses are urging parents to keep up to date with their baby’s vaccinations to help try and control the spread of the virus.
Twenty-four people in Brighton and Hove have been struck down this year compared to just three last year.
East Sussex has risen from seven to 62 and West Sussex has gone up from 21 to 56.
The actual number could be even higher because not everyone with the illness visits their GP.
Whooping cough can cause nasty symptoms in adults but does not usually cause any long-lasting complications and can be treated with antibiotics.
However in the very young it can be a serious illness and can lead to death in some cases.
Five babies have died in England and Wales this year but the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has not revealed where they were from.
The exact reason for the illness becoming widespread is not known but in the past there have been quiet periods followed by sudden peaks.
It is highly infectious and can spread quickly in places where people are in close contact.
Although the take-up rate for vaccinations in the county is good, the vaccine wears off with age so adults are not protected.
This is believed to be one of the reasons for the current outbreak.
The HPA believes it may also be down to better awareness among doctors and other healthcare professionals who are ordering more tests and so confirming more cases.
At the moment the NHS vaccinates all babies when they are two, three and four months old as part of their ‘five in one’ jabs and then again just before school as part of their pre-school booster.
Director of the Sussex and Surrey Health Protection Unit, Angela Iversen, said: “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.
“Parents should ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity.”