The number of pertussis, or whooping cough cases in the European Union is up dramatically from 2011 to 2012, according to new data published in the Annual epidemiological report 2014 – vaccine-preventable diseases, a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) publication.
In 2012, the notification rate of pertussis cases was more than twice as high as in previous years. With 42,525 (38,840 confirmed) cases reported by 28 EU/EEA countries, the overall rate of confirmed cases in 2012 was 10.93 cases per 100,000 population, twice as high as in previous years.
This compares to to the four previous years–2011 the EU saw 17,068 cases, in 2010 there was 14,337 and 18,164 and 19,741 cases recorded in 2009 and 2008, respectively.
The Netherlands reported the highest total number of cases (N=12,868), more than twice the number than in 2011, representing 30% of the total EU/EEA reported number of cases. The United Kingdom reported nearly ten times more cases than in 2011 (1 256 cases in 2011 to 11,993 cases in 2012), representing 28% of the total EU/EEA reported number of cases.
In addition to the two above countries, notable increases in the notification rate were observed in Denmark, Latvia, Czech Republic, Austria, Lithuania, Ireland, Poland and Portugal.
The ECDC says based on the data presented, pertussis is no longer solely a pediatric infection. Incidence is increasing in adolescents and adults and gives reasons for concern as these age groups are a source of transmission to infants too young to be vaccinated, especially because of mild and asymptomatic symptoms in adolescents and adults which are often not recognized as pertussis. As most severe cases and deaths occur in infants, policy makers need to reconsider regular pertussis booster vaccinations in adolescents and adults to reduce the overall incidence and indirectly protect susceptible infants.
Vaccine strategies should be revisited and consideration given to adolescent and adult boosters, as well as to vaccinations for healthcare workers and pregnant women, as these measures are essential for prevention, the health organization concludes.
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