Major warning as whooping cough 'explosion' rocks France – 'worst in 40 years'

France has been rocked by an explosion of whooping cough cases as local authorities battle to contain the spread of the highly contagious condition.

Earlier this year, health bosses in the UK issued an urgent warning as cases of the Victorian disease continued to skyrocket

Now in France. nearly 6,000 cases have been recorded so far this year with infants at particular risk of catching the condition and developing serious illness, according to the Pasteur Institute,

The figures suggest that positive cases are 11 times higher between January and May this year than they were in the entirety of 2023 with 6,000 cases recorded.

The head of the National Reference Centre for whooping cough at the Pasteur Institute, Sylvain Brisse, talked about why it was happening and how people could protect themselves.

Brisse explained to Franceinfo just how many cases they were seeing and how contagious the bacteria that causes whooping cough can be. They said it was possible to talk about the large patient numbers as an explosion of new cases.

They added that they hadn’t seen an outbreak of this kind for over 40 years in terms of the sheer volume of cases or in how quickly they had increased.

The expert warned the bacteria that causes whooping cough was incredibly contagious, more contagious in fact than Covid-19 was at the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Brisse also said one reason they were seeing so many cases could be because of the population’s reduced immunity thanks to social distancing measures introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While France is seeing an explosion in cases, the UK is also witnessing a sharp rise in the number of whooping cough patients.

Last month, the UKHSA (United Kingdom Health Security Agency) revealed that cases of whooping cough in Devon and Cornwall in April were more than double the total for 2023.

They said there had been 47 detections in April compared to 2012 for the 12 months to August 2023. Overall over 2,700 cases of whooping cough have been detected in the UK so far this year.

Speaking to the BBC, midwife for Derriford Hospital Charlie Perkin warned: “I don’t think many people know how serious it can be. Newborn babies don’t have any immunity at all, and we can’t vaccinate them until they’re eight weeks old.”


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