Mums-to-be are urged to have the whooping cough vaccine

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Pregnant women are being offered the whooping cough vaccination to protect their unborn babies after a 10th infant died in the biggest outbreak of the infectious disease for 20 years.

There were 1,322 confirmed cases of whooping cough in England and Wales in September alone, 300 more than the total figure for 2011, according to the Health Protection Agency. In Northamptonshire there have been 38 reported cases so far this year, with two in Corby and East Northamptonshire, seven in Kettering and one in Wellingborough.

Babies are not usually vaccinated until they are between two and four months old.

Doctors say the introduction of the vaccination programme in pregnant women who are between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy will help to boost the short term immunity passed on by women to their babies while they are still in the womb.

Dr Olufunke Adedeji, Public Health Consultant for NHS Northamptonshire, said: “Whooping cough (or pertussis) is a potentially fatal but vaccine-preventable disease. Mums-to-be shouldn’t miss the opportunity to protect themselves and their newborn babies. Ask for the vaccination from your GP today.”

Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be passed from person to person through droplets from the nose and throat of infected individuals when coughing and sneezing.