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Whooping cough cases are increasing in Europe, Asia and parts of the US




Whooping cough cases are increasing in Europe, Asia and parts of the US

Whooping cough outbreaks are spreading across Europe, Asia and parts of the United States Northern California. Since December last year cases of whooping cough have risen sharply, especially in Great Britain and Europe. This year’s increase represents the largest increase since 2012according to NBC News.

The situation in Europe is worrying. In the Netherlands, for example, according to the Dutch news service NOS There were 1,800 cases of whooping cough reported in the first two weeks of April, including 50 in babies most at risk.

And this year’s total so far is 5,303, including 276 babies. Nearly half of the 276 babies were hospitalized and four died. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment also reported this week the death of a person with whooping cough who was over 80 years old.

According to the Netherlands Institute, the figures are “very high” compared to previous years. To illustrate: in 2023 there were a total of 2,842 cases of whooping cough for the entire year.

The Dutch Public Health Authority cites the declining vaccination rate in children as a possible cause of the current outbreak. Public health officials remark that when parents do not fully vaccinate their children, the risk of transmission increases.

The Czech Republic has also recently been hit by a “increasing number of whooping cough cases,” according to Barrons. The rapidly growing outbreak there has already led to three fatalities, health authorities said earlier this week.

The country has recorded 7,888 cases of respiratory disease this year. Last week alone, health authorities recorded 1,494 new cases, which was the fastest weekly growth in 2024. There are currently at least 183 patients in hospital.

Bloomberg News says that cases of whooping cough have come to an end in China 32,000 in January and February this year, compared to just 1,400 in all of 2023.

Whooping cough is one highly contagious respiratory disease spread through small droplets composed of saliva, mucus, and other material from respiratory tract surfaces. Whooping cough is highly contagious. Once the disease enters a given household, up to 90% of contacts can become infected.

The disease is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. These bacteria attach to the cilia, or hair-like extensions, that line part of the upper respiratory system.

The UK Health Security Agency describes how the disease usually manifests itself. Although the initial symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a common cold, after a week or two the characteristic ‘whooping cough’, a sound made when patients gasp for breath between coughs, may develop. Uncontrolled attacks of severe coughing can last several minutes and sometimes cause vomiting. The coughing is usually worse at night. Babies under three months of age who are not fully protected by immunization are at greatest risk of developing serious complications.

The disease can inflame the bronchi, or airways, of young babies, making it difficult to breathe. The most common complication of infection is pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Before the introduction of vaccines in the 1940s, there were as many as 9,000 people died every year in the US from whooping cough. That number dropped to single digits by 1976 due to large-scale immunization campaigns that began in the late 1940s.

And at its peak, the number of people dying from whooping cough every year was in the hundreds of thousands. As recently as 2002, whooping cough caused the deaths of approx 294,000 people worldwide, with the largest share in Africa. By 2019, the mass administration of vaccines led to a sharp decline in deaths from whooping cough about 120,000.

At this time, whooping cough cases in the US are still relatively low in 2024, but recent clusters have been detected in the San Francisco area. As with ongoing measles outbreaks, the key to preventing or containing the spread of this vaccine-preventable disease is to ensure that parents do not shy away from getting their children vaccinated. The more vaccine hesitancy increases, the more likely infectious diseases like whooping cough will make a comeback, as we are seeing in Europe today.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend parents start the vaccine series for their children – which can prevent diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough – from the age of two months. The series contains four more shots, from four and six months, from 15 to 18 months and from four and six years old.