Since May, an increasing number of cases of whooping cough, or pertussis have been registered, and during the summer the number has been steadily increasing. The increase has been seen throughout the country with the exception of Bornholm, and in August the number of detected cases was four times higher than normal.
A total of 1,229 cases of whooping cough have now been detected in 2023. There is a marked increase from 12 detected cases in January to 439 cases in August.
Statens Serum Institut (SSI) therefore assesses that this is an epidemic.
“This is a significant increase. It is well known that whooping cough occurs in epidemics three to five years apart, and the last time we had an epidemic was in 2019-2020. Typically, such an epidemic lasts for approximately half a year to a full year”, says department doctor Peter Henrik Andersen from the Department of Infection Epidemiology and Prevention at SSI.
The number of cases reached 439 in August, a tally that covers cases detected in a laboratory, and people with whooping cough who have not been detected in a laboratory are therefore not included. Usually less than 100 cases are registered per month.
There is a particularly high incidence among young children aged 0 years, among older children aged 9 to 19 years and among adults in aged 40 to 50 years.
Whooping cough in children under 2 years of age is notifiable, and in 2023, 48 cases in this age group have been reported so far.
Pertussis vaccination is part of the Danish vaccination program (3-5-12 months and 5 years), but the vaccination does not provide lifelong protection. Whooping cough occurs in all age groups, but the vaccination program primarily aims to protect infants from the disease, as these are at risk of a serious course. Doctors should therefore be particularly aware of the risk of infection to infants, and especially to unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children under six months.
On the basis of the increasing incidence this summer, a temporary offer of pertussis vaccination for pregnant women was reintroduced on 1 August 2023. Pregnant women are recommended to be vaccinated against pertussis in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. The infant thereby obtains protection that lasts until the child can receive the first vaccination at the age of three months.
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