The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is urging parents to ensure their children's vaccinations are up-to-date, following a rise in the number of whooping cough cases this year.

There have been an estimated 665 new cases of whooping cough already this year - compared 1,040 in the whole of 2011.

Although whooping cough affects people of all ages, the most recent outbreak has involved young children, who are susceptible to complications and death.

Dr Mary Ramsay, the HPA's head of immunisation, said: "Whooping cough can be a very unpleasant infection. Anyone showing signs and symptoms should visit their GP.

"Whooping cough can spread easily to close contacts such as household members. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect people from this infection and uptake of the vaccine is very good.

"Parents should ensure their children are up-to-date with their vaccinations so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity. The pre-school booster is also important, not only to boost protection in that child but also to reduce the risk of them passing the infection on to vulnerable babies, as those under four months cannot be fully protected by the vaccine.

"The HPA has written to GPs to remind them of the signs and symptoms of this infection and stress the importance of vaccination. The agency is also encouraging GPs to report cases quickly and to make them aware of the HPA's guidance to help reduce the spread of the infection."

Story posted by Robert Mair on 13/4/2012