Be Alert: Cases of 100-Day Whooping Cough Rising in the UK – What You Need to Know

whooping cough uk

The UK (United Kingdom) is currently grappling with a concerning increase in cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis. Characterized by a persistent cough lasting 100 days or more, this highly contagious respiratory infection demands heightened vigilance and awareness, particularly among vulnerable populations. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the nature of whooping cough, the reasons behind its resurgence, symptoms, risk factors, and crucial preventive measures.

What is Whooping Cough?

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection affecting the lungs and airways. It begins with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a mild cough but progresses to severe, uncontrollable bouts of coughing that end with a distinctive “whooping” sound. This cough can lead to complications like rib fractures and pneumonia.

Factors Contributing to the Rise in Cases:

  1. Waning Immunity: The decline in the UK vaccination rate for whooping cough, coupled with natural waning immunity over time, has left a larger proportion of the population susceptible to the disease.
  2. Cyclical Outbreaks: Whooping cough outbreaks follow a three to four-year cycle, with 2023 identified as a peak year, contributing to the current increase in cases.

Early Symptoms of Whooping Cough:

The initial symptoms of whooping cough are often mistaken for a common cold and include runny nose, sneezing, mild cough, low-grade fever, and fatigue. As the disease progresses, the cough becomes more severe, accompanied by distinctive features such as whooping sounds, difficulty breathing, vomiting after coughing, and facial redness or cyanosis.

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Groups Most at Risk:

  1. Infants: Babies under six months face the highest risk of severe complications, including pneumonia and death.
  2. Pregnant Women: Mother-to-baby transmission during pregnancy or childbirth poses a risk to the newborn.
  3. Weakened Immune Systems: Individuals with conditions like HIV/AIDS or undergoing treatments like chemotherapy are more susceptible to serious complications.

Protective Measures:

  1. Vaccination: The primary prevention method involves following the recommended vaccination schedule, including booster shots for adults.
  2. Hygiene Practices: Regular handwashing, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and maintaining good hygiene reduce the risk of transmission.
  3. Avoiding Sick Individuals: Steer clear of close contact with those exhibiting symptoms, and if experiencing symptoms, stay home to prevent the spread.
  4. Prompt Medical Attention: Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial; therefore, seeking medical attention when whooping cough is suspected is imperative.

The Alarming 100-Day Cough:

Recent reports highlight an unusual symptom associated with whooping cough – a persistent cough lasting 100 days or more. While not universal, this extended cough can result in fatigue, sleep disturbances, and, in severe cases, rib fractures.

Why Cases are Rising in the UK:

  1. Waning Immunity: A decrease in vaccination rates contributes to declining population immunity.
  2. Increased Mixing: Relaxation of social distancing measures leads to more opportunities for bacterial transmission.
  3. Bacterial Mutations: Evolving bacteria can become more resistant to existing vaccines.

Symptoms and Risks:

Early symptoms of whooping cough may be mistaken for a common cold, but the distinctive cough sets in as the infection progresses. The 100-day cough is a serious concern, requiring immediate medical attention to prevent complications.

Preventing Whooping Cough:

  1. Vaccination: Ensuring children and adults are up-to-date on their vaccinations is paramount.
  2. Good Hygiene Practices: Regular handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding close contact aid in preventing transmission.
  3. Staying Informed: Awareness about the symptoms, risks, and preventive measures empowers communities to curb the spread of whooping cough.


The surge in whooping cough cases in the UK necessitates a collective effort to understand, prevent, and control this highly contagious infection. By staying informed, adhering to vaccination schedules, practicing good hygiene, and seeking prompt medical attention when needed, individuals can contribute to maintaining the health of their communities. It is crucial to prioritize preventive measures and remain vigilant in the face of this resurgence, ultimately safeguarding vulnerable populations and promoting overall community well-being.

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