U.K. Whooping cough cases continue to rise

May, 2024

Based on the data provided by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), there has been a notable increase in whooping cough (pertussis) cases in England. The graph shows the confirmed cases of pertussis in England by month for the year 2024. From January to March 2024, there were 2,793 confirmed cases, with a significant rise in cases observed in February and March.

It is important to note that this increase in cases follows a period of low incidence due to COVID-19 restrictions. In comparison to the entire year of 2023, where there were 858 cases, January 2024 alone saw 553 cases. This highlights the sudden surge in whooping cough cases in a relatively short period.

The rise in cases is seen across all age groups, but infants under 3 months are particularly vulnerable. Sadly, there have been five reported deaths in infants during the first quarter of 2024. This alarming statistic underscores the need for heightened vigilance and preventive measures to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

The UKHSA emphasizes the importance of vaccination as a key strategy to combat the spread of whooping cough. Vaccination, especially for pregnant women and young children, plays a crucial role in preventing the transmission of this highly infectious disease. It not only protects individuals but also contributes to herd immunity, reducing the overall burden of whooping cough in the population.

Efforts should be made to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination, ensuring that pregnant women receive the pertussis vaccine during their pregnancy. Additionally, it is essential to maintain a high vaccination rate among infants and children to provide them with the necessary protection against this potentially severe respiratory illness.

Whooping cough, clinically known as pertussis, is a bacterial infection which affects the lungs. The first signs of infection are similar to a cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat, but after about a week, the infection can develop into coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are typically worse at night. Young babies may also make a distinctive ‘whoop’ or have difficulty breathing after a bout of coughing, though not all babies make this noise which means whooping cough can be hard to recognise.

If anyone in your family is diagnosed with whooping cough, it’s important they stay at home and do not go into work, school or nursery until 48 hours after starting antibiotics, or 3 weeks after symptoms start if they have not had antibiotics. This helps to prevent the spread of infection, especially to vulnerable groups, including infants. However, vaccination remains the best protection for babies and children.

In conclusion, the current incidence of whooping cough in the UK has seen a significant increase in recent months. The rise in cases highlights the importance of vaccination and the need for proactive measures to protect vulnerable populations, especially infants. By prioritizing vaccination and raising awareness, we can work towards reducing the burden of whooping cough and safeguarding the health of our communities.


  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pertussis-epidemiology-in-england-2024/confirmed-cases-of-pertussis-in-england-by-month


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About the Author

  • Dilruwan Herath

    Dilruwan Herath is a British infectious disease physician and pharmaceutical medical executive with over 25 years of experience. As a doctor, he specialized in infectious diseases and immunology, developing a resolute focus on public health impact. Throughout his career, Dr. Herath has held several senior medical leadership roles in large global pharmaceutical companies, leading transformative clinical changes and ensuring access to innovative medicines. Currently, he serves as an expert member for the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine on it Infectious Disease Commitee and continues advising life sciences companies. When not practicing medicine, Dr. Herath enjoys painting landscapes, motorsports, computer programming, and spending time with his young family. He maintains an avid interest in science and technology. He is a founder of DarkDrug

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