Whooping cough alert

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WIGANERS are being urged to look out for symptoms following a rise in the number of cases of whooping cough.

Health chiefs are warning that a marked rise in cases could lead to further cases if it is not caught early. In the North West, the number of cases has more than doubled from 65 in 2010 to 107 in 2011.

Whooping cough can be a serious illness, especially in the young. The main symptoms are severe coughing fits which, in babies and children, are accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound as the child gasps for breath. Very young children have the highest risk of severe complications and death.

The infection can be treated with antibiotics to prevent the infection spreading further but young infants may need hospital care due to the risk of severe complications.

Vaccination is the most important control measure in preventing this disease and children are offered whooping cough vaccine at two, three and four months of age as part of the routine vaccination programme. The vaccine also protects against diphtheria, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b - a cause of meningitis - and tetanus.