Pregnant women offered whooping cough vaccine
Pregnant women will now be offered a vaccine against whooping cough to protect their newborn babies from catching this life-threatening illness.
There have been increasing numbers of young infants dying from the bacterial disease in the UK in recent years - nine have already died in 2012 in England and Wales, and there have been 302 cases of the disease in children under three months old.
Very young babies are at highest risk since they are not able to have their own whooping cough vaccine until they are two months old.
All pregnant women are advised to have the jab in their final trimester when they are 28-38 weeks pregnant.
Even if you have already been immunised against whooping cough at some other point in your life, getting the vaccine while you're pregnant could help to protect your baby from developing the illness in its first few weeks of life.
Whooping cough is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis, which can be passed from person to person through droplets in the air from coughing and sneezing.
Parents should be alert to the signs and symptoms - which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic "whoop" sound in young children but as a prolonged cough in older children or adults.
It is also advisable to keep babies away from older siblings or adults who have the infection.
The temporary vaccination programme begins from October 2012 and will be offered to pregnant women during routine antenatal appointments with a nurse, midwife or GP.
Visit the rest of our new Pregnancy and Caring for your Children Centre for more information on pre-conception and pregnancy, and advice on postnatal care and early childhood.
Also read our healthy living guide ' Childhood: part of the life stages series', for more information on important childhood diseases and conditions, or post a child-health related question online for one of our health experts to answer.
Source © Trio Media 2012
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