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Pregnant women across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are being offered the whooping cough vaccination, following a rise in the number of cases.
The vaccination will boost short term immunity passed on by women to their babies while they're still in the womb. Newborns will still need to be vaccinated between two and four months of age, so that they continue to be protected.
GPs will be giving the vaccination to women who are at least 28 weeks pregnant, in order to optimise its effectiveness.
Whooping cough â€“ or pertussis â€“ is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. The condition usually begins with a persistent dry and irritating cough which progresses to intense bouts of coughing. These are followed by a distinctive "whooping" noise.
Dr Ruth Milton, Directors of Public Health for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight:
"Whooping cough affects all ages, but this on-going national increase has extended to very young babies. It's this age group that is most likely to suffer severe complications or even death.
"That's why the Department of Health is urging all women who are 28 weeks pregnant or more to have the vaccination.
"The immunity you get from the vaccine will pass to your baby through the placenta, helping to protect them in the first few weeks of life.
"If you're approaching 28 weeks pregnant, or are further along that this, then we urge you to contact your GP practice to find out more about the vaccine, and to book an appointment to receive it.
"It's also important that all parents ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough as part of their routine immunisations, to continue protection through childhood."
For more information on the whooping cough vaccination in pregnancy, visit the NHS Choices website: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/whooping-cough-vaccination-pregnant.aspx
Confirmed cases of whooping cough in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight between January and August 2012
PCT 2011 2012
Hampshire 8 180
Isle of Wight 0 11
Portsmouth 1 9
Southampton 0 17
Total 9 217