'Unprecedented' rise in whooping cough cases in East Yorkshire
HEALTH officials have raised concerns following an "unprecedented" rise in cases of a highly infectious bacterial disease.
Whooping cough spreads when a person with the infection coughs and sheds the bacteria, which is then inhaled by another person.
So far this year, 52 cases have been confirmed in the East Riding, with a further three in Hull.
By contrast, there was just one case in the East Riding in 2008 and no cases in Hull.
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The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the ongoing outbreak, which is a problem across the country, is mainly in teenagers and young adults but there are also a high number of babies affected.
Dr Simon Padfield, consultant in communicable disease control at the HPA, said: "It is pretty unprecedented.
"Whooping cough generally follows three to four-year cycles and we don't fully know why.
"You generally get a peak and it dies off for the next couple of years but the peak this year is much higher than in 2008.
"It's fairly exceptional at the moment. It's quite concerning."
Whooping cough is also known as pertussis and affects the lungs and airways of people of all ages.
However, the HPA said young infants are at highest risk of severe complications and death from whooping cough, as babies do not get the benefits from vaccination until they are about four months old.
In older children and adults, whooping cough can be unpleasant but the illness does not usually lead to serious complications.
In July, 1,047 cases of whooping cough were reported to the HPA in England and Wales, bringing the total number of cases so far this year to 3,523.
Dr Padfield advised those diagnosed with whooping cough to stay away from schools and nurseries, while parents are urged to make sure their children's vaccinations are up to date.
He said: "Most people will just get a nasty illness, which is treatable with antibiotics. The main risk group is very small children.
"The vaccine is doing its job to protect young children, so we have very few cases between one and five. But the benefit of the vaccine is wearing off after time."
NHS officials said it is important to take steps to avoid spreading the infection to others, especially babies under the age of six months.
Children with whooping cough should be kept away from school or nursery until they have taken antibiotics for five days. The same applies to adults returning to their workplace.
As a precaution, members of the same household as someone with whooping cough may also be given antibiotics and a booster shot of the vaccine.
The NHS said babies under six months are likely to be admitted to hospital, as they are most at risk of severe complications such as serious breathing difficulties. They are likely to be treated in isolation and given antibiotics through a drip.
In the UK, children are vaccinated against whooping cough at two, three and four months old, and again before starting school at about the age of three.