THERE has been a rise in whooping cough cases with 18 in the county so far this year, compared with none in the same period last year.
The Health Protection Agency has said there has been a sharp increase in cases country-wide, but while Northamptonshire is following this trend, it is not considered a hotbed for the disease.
Dr Karthic Paranthaman, consultant for the Health Protection Agency in Northamptonshire, said: “What we are seeing in Northamptonshire follows a pattern across the country.
“Northamptonshire is not a hotspot, it has not seen an exceptional increase like some areas.
“Whooping cough tends to peak in cycles every three or four years and we could be seeing that now.
“Doctors are becoming more aware of it and diagnosing more people too.”
At of the end of last week, there had been 209 clinically diagnosed cases in the East Midlands.
The main symptoms of the disease are severe coughing fits, which in babies and younger children, are accompanied by a “whooping” sound as the people gasp for breath after coughing. It can affect people of all ages.
Newborn babies are advised to get vaccinated for whooping cough from two months of age, but if they catch it before vaccination, it could make them seriously ill.
Dr Paranthaman said: “We’ve been talking to GPs and people who have been affected by the cough to see who they have been around to minimise the risk.
“We’ve not had any cases of outbreaks in schools in the county so far this year though.
“We have tried to visit schools to raise awareness of the disease.
“If people have a serious cough for about a week, and don’t think it’s flu, they should consult their GP if it is persistent.
“If a newborn child is exposed to it the outcome could be pretty horrible.
“Anyone who thinks they could have the disease should avoid contact with young children, as you would do with most diseases.
“But I think the statistics are only the tip of the iceberg as not everyone gets diagnosed who has it.”
Between January and April 22 last year, there were only 51 cases of whooping cough reported in the whole East Midlands.