The recent notable increase in cases of TB and whooping cough, diseases that were thought to have been largely eradicated, is causing concern across communities throughout the UK.

Figures released by the Health protection Agency (HPA) late last week show the number of drug resistant cases of TB continues to rise with 431 reports in 2011, up from 342 in 2010 - an increase of 26 per cent. Overall, 8,963 new cases of TB were reported to the Health protection Agency (HPA) in 2011, up from 8,410 cases in 2010.

There has also been a widely publicised surge in cases of whooping cough, or pertussis. So far in 2012 there've been 2,398 cases of the bacterial infection in the UK, compared with just 272 in the same period last year.

Although the rise is largely among adolescents and adults, who tend to have a less severe illness, alarm is increasing by the fact five babies have died this year alone.

Babies are especially at risk of contracting the bacterial infection because they are not fully protected until their third dose of vaccine at four months. Children get a pre-school booster and vaccination coverage is high, but immunity gradually wanes.

The sound of a baby struggling for breath with whooping cough is as distressing as it is distinctive. A hacking cough is often followed by silence and then the long "whoop" as they are finally able to breathe in.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation - whose recommendations apply across the UK - has been considering how to deal with the resurgence of whooping cough and some health experts are suggesting a booster dose to adolescents may help.

Drug resistant TB, when a patient fails to respond to one of the four main antibiotics used to treat the infection, accounted for 8.4 per cent of laboratory confirmed TB cases in 2011.

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, head of TB surveillance at the HPA admitted the increase was a "concern and a challenge" but explained that: ""Failing to complete treatment is one of the key causes of drug resistance. Although we are seeing increases in both drug resistant and multi-drug resistant TB (MDR TB), it's very encouraging that the proportion of people who are completing their treatment is increasing.

"TB continues to disproportionately affect those in hard to reach and vulnerable groups, particularly migrants. In order to reduce TB cases in the future, it's very important that health commissioners, especially in parts of the country with the highest rates of TB, prioritise the delivery of appropriate clinical and public health TB services.

Posted by 09/07/2012 by penny.hosie@pavpub.com