In a follow-up on the whooping cough, or pertussis outbreak in Denmark, the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) reports during the spring and summer, the weekly number of detected cases has increased significantly, in fact officials are now seeing levels that are more than ten times higher than normal.
In week 37 alone (the week ending September 16), 200 cases of whooping cough were detected, and for comparison, the incidence in the period between the two most recent epidemics was on average approximately 20 cases per week.
“We have seen both a rapid and strong increase in whooping cough over the past months, and since whooping cough is highly contagious, it is important to pay attention to minimizing further infection”, according to Senior researcher Tine Dalby from the Department of Infection Epidemiology and Prevention at SSI.
Whooping cough is a respiratory infection that is particularly characterized by a course of up to three months with strong coughing fits, often accompanied by howling breathing and vomiting directly after the fits.
Pertussis vaccination is part of the childhood vaccination programme, and the purpose of the vaccination is to protect infants in particular, as they are at risk of a serious course of the disease. To protect these children as best as possible, pregnant women are recommended to be vaccinated against whooping cough, as infants can only receive their first vaccination at the age of three months, and they are therefore particularly exposed to infection in the first three months of life. By vaccinating the pregnant woman, both mother and child obtain good protection against whooping cough.
The offer to vaccinate pregnant women was reintroduced after a break on 1 August 2023 as a result of the current epidemic.
“It is important that pregnant women get vaccinated against whooping cough to protect their child, especially now that we have an ongoing epidemic. In most other countries in Europe as well as in The USA, Canada and Australia have also introduced vaccination for pregnant women, and there are good experiences both in terms of safety and effectiveness”–Senior researcher Tine Dalby
Whooping cough vaccination only provides short-term immunity, and it is therefore not unusual to see epidemics 3-5 years apart. Certain types of antibiotics (macrolides) can be used to shorten the period when there is a risk of passing the infection on to others, but treatment will only have a limited effect on the course of the disease in the individual.
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