Whooping cough infections in London have more than doubled in a fortnight in London, figures revealed on Friday, as health chiefs urged parents to look out for symptoms in children.
Data from the UK Health Security Agency showed that 42 notified cases were reported in London in the week up to January 21, a rise of 147 per cent on the figure reported two weeks prior. During the same period last year, the capital did not record a single infection.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection which is spread through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person.
It causes repeated coughing that can last for three months or more, giving it the nickname the "100 day" cough. The first symptoms are similar to those of a cold and intense coughing bouts start around a week later.
Whooping cough can cause serious complications in young babies, who are likely to be admitted to hospital.
London has the highest case load of any region in the country, according to the figures. Hackney, Ealing and Lambeth were among the boroughs with the highest number of infections.
The data was published as part of the UKHSA's weekly NOIDS report, which tracks suspected cases of infectious diseases that are later confirmed in a laboratory. Confirmed cases are expected to rise as test results are reported.
Dr Yvonne Young, regional deputy director at UKHSA London, told the Standard: “Cases of suspected whooping cough have increased recently in London and parents should remain vigilant for signs and symptoms and ensure that their children’s vaccinations are up to date."
She urged parents to ensure their children were vaccinated against the illness to prevent serious complications.
The jab is usually given to children as part of the "six-in-one" vaccine given to babies when they are 8, 12 and 16 weeks old.
Pregnant women can also receive a vaccine which provides protection for their newborn babies.
But the latest figures show that more than one in ten (11.1 per cent) babies had not received the jab by the age of two as of September last year. It is the lowest total of any region in England and 4.5 per cent below the national average.
In Hackney, three-quarters (25.5 per cent) of babies have still not received their six-in-one jab - by far the lowest total in the country.
The rise in whooping cough cases comes a week after public health bosses raised the alarm over a surge in measles cases in London and the West Midlands, sparked by low rates of MMR vaccination in both regions.
Earlier this week, the Government warned that almost 3.5 million under-16s were at risk of catching measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).
The NHS has announced a new vaccination campaign targeting all parents of children aged six to 11 in areas of low vaccine uptake, including London and the West Midlands.
Analysis by the Standard found that children living in Hackney (60 per cent), Kensington and Chelsea (60.7 per cent) and Westminster (61 per cent) had the lowest rate of MMR vaccination of any local authority.
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