‘Avoid hugging and kissing’ at Christmas to prevent spread of 100 day cough

Doctor explains treatment for whooping cough on This Morning

An expert has urged UK households to consider “elbow bumping” relatives this Christmas, rather than hugging and kissing to reduce the spread of a potentially deadly infection. Revisiting this Covid prevention method could be necessary this winter, according to one university professor, as cases of whooping cough have skyrocketed in the UK.

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has shown there were 716 suspected cases of the Victorian illness in England and Wales between July and November this year. This is nearly triple the 217 recorded over the same period in 2022.

Also known as the 100 day cough, whooping cough is a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes that can spread easily. Initial symptoms may be mild, such as a runny nose and sore throat, but this is often followed by serious coughing bouts.

In severe cases it can cause seizures, breathing difficulties and pneumonia, especially in babies. Globally it contributes to more than 160,000 child deaths every year.

Therefore, preventing the spread of infection is vital. This can occur through the air, when a person with whooping cough sneezes or coughs and others breathe in the bacteria.

READ MORE Professor warns rise in 100 day cough cases ‘significant concern’ – the signs

Professor Richard Tedder, ex-head of the department of virology at the University College London (UCL), warned that cases would likely rise further over Christmas as people socialise more than usual.

Speaking to The Sun, he said: “People should ensure they are vaccinated and consider using masks to help prevent the spread [of whooping cough].”

In particular he recommended returning to elbow bumping – a greeting used often during the Covid pandemic.

“They could also adopt the ‘no hugging or kissing’ rule and use their elbows to greet people,” he said.

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One of his colleagues, Prof Helen Bedford – an expert in child public health at UCL, added: “Whooping cough, like other infections, saw a huge decline due to the public health measures introduced in COVID-19.

“We are now seeing increases in cases of other infections.”

Experts also warned that unvaccinated children are at greater risk for infection.

In the UK, the NHS provides a whooping cough jab for babies at ages eight, 12 and 16 weeks, as well as children aged three.

Pregnant people should also get vaccinated between 16 and 32 weeks.

However, uptake in the UK has dropped, with a, with a 61.5 percent jab rate in 2022. This is a 3.9 percent decrease from 2021 and an almost eight percent drop from 2020.

Prof Beate Kampmann, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The rise in cases might be because of missed vaccination appointments, possibly during the pandemic.

“Severe disease is almost entirely preventable if the mother is vaccinated in pregnancy and her protective antibody reaches the baby through the placenta and protects until the baby gets its vaccines.

“It is therefore important that everyone looks at their vaccination records to check if they might have missed this vaccine, which is given with the routine childhood immunisations and in pregnancy.”

Early symptoms of whooping cough usually appear seven to 10 days after infection and include a mild fever, runny nose, sore throat, and cough, which gradually develops into a hacking cough that can cause a “whoop” sound.

This can be especially persistent, sometimes lasting for weeks or even months, according to the NHS.

You should call 111 or book an urgent GP appointment if:

  • Your baby is under six months old and has symptoms of whooping cough
  • You or your child have a very bad cough that is getting worse
  • You’ve been in contact with someone with whooping cough and you’re pregnant
  • You or your child has been in contact with someone with whooping cough and have a weakened immune system.

But you should call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • Your or your child’s lips, tongue, face or skin suddenly turn blue or grey (on black or brown skin this may be easier to see on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet)
  • You or your child are finding it hard to breathe properly (shallow breathing)
  • You or your child have chest pain that’s worse when breathing or coughing – this could be a sign of pneumonia
  • Your child is having seizures (fits).

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