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Director of Public Health urges pregnant women to get immunised against Whooping Cough

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pregnant women are being urged to get immunised against whooping cough as the number of infections continues to rise. 

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde’s director of Public Health has called on all expectant mothers to be vaccinated against the highly infectious and serious illness, which can lead to pneumonia and brain damage particularly in babies.

The disease occurs in cycles, with peaks of incidence every three or four years. It is not known why these cycles occur but the peak in 2011/12 was particularly high. As a result, a national vaccination programme was introduced for pregnant women in September 2012. 

While the vaccine is available for all pregnant women, the uptake across Greater Glasgow & Clyde is only 63%. This is despite 16 preventable baby deaths in the UK since 2012 where the pregnant woman had not been vaccinated or got it too late to protect their child. 

The vaccine aims to prevent the development of the infection in the first place as well as reducing the severity of complications if it does strike. Complications can include: 

  • Brain damage
  • Kidney problems
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Death on rare occasions
  • Dehydration
  • Breathing difficulties

Pregnant women should make an appointment with their GP to get the vaccination between 16-32 weeks of the pregnancy. 

Linda de Caestecker, Director of Public Health, NHSGGC, said: “I would strongly urge every expectant mother to get vaccinated against whooping cough. It may save their baby’s life. 

“Expectant mothers can make an appointment with their GP to get vaccinated between 16 and 32 weeks of their pregnancy to make sure their babies are already protected when they are born.” 

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease which spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. Initially, symptoms are usually similar to those of a cold with runny nose, fever and mild cough.

This is followed by weeks of severe coughing fits and a high-pitched whoop sound or gasp may occur as the person breathes in.

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