BRITS are being urged to social distance this Christmas by ‘elbow bumping’ relatives instead of hugging them.
A leading virologist gave the advise after new government data suggests cases of whooping cough have risen by 250 per cent compared to last year.
Brits are being urged to ‘elbow bump’ and ‘avoid hugging’ this ChristmasCredit: Getty
Map reveals most dangerous places in UK for whooping cough
Looking at 2023 until late November, data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed 1,141 suspected cases in England and Wales.
This is over double 450 for the same period of 2022 and 454 for that period in 2021 – about a 250 per cent increase.
Speaking to The Sun, Prof 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.
He said: “People should ensure they are vaccinated and consider using masks to help prevent the spread [of whooping cough].
Read more on whooping cough
“They could also adopt the ‘no hugging or kissing’ rule and use their elbows to greet people.”
Experts say the rise in cases could be a hangover from restrictions during the Covid pandemic like mask-wearing and hand hygiene.
Prof Helen Bedford, an expert in child public health at UCL, said: “Whooping cough, like other infections, saw a huge decline due to the public health measures introduced in Covid-19, and we are now seeing increases in cases of other infections”.
Prof Beate Kampmann, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine added: “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.”
The bacterial infection, known as pertussis and the 100-day cough due to its long-lasting symptoms, can cause severe coughing that can lead to vomiting and broken ribs.
Before vaccines, pertussis killed thousands of children a year.
Earlier this year, the government urged pregnant women to get the whooping cough vaccine as figures fell to a seven-year low of 61.5 per cent uptake.
Coverage for London is particularly low at just 41.4 per cent.
Babies under six months old with whooping cough have an increased risk of pneumonia and seizures.
The whooping cough vaccine is given alongside five others to babies at eight, 12 and 16 weeks and as part of a four-in-one booster to preschool children aged three years and four months.
How is my area affected?
The Notification of Infectious Diseases Report (NOIDS), tracks suspected infectious disease cases in England and Wales.
While cases have risen in both countries, notifications are still relatively low compared to how high they were in 2010s.
The report does not specify the ages of those suspected to have the bug.
Some 52 cases were reported in the week ending November 26, almost 50 per cent more than the 35 cases ending October 29.
The South East is one of the hardest-hit areas in the UK, with 11 suspected cases within the last week.
The West Midlands and North West come joint second, with nine cases each.
Yorkshire and Humber, London and Wales all reported six suspected cases – coming in third.
The North East comes in fourth with four cases, with the East of England firth with just one case.
Meanwhile, the East Midlands and the South West both reported no cases.
Whooping cough symptoms
WHOOPING cough (pertussis) is a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes.
The first signs of whooping cough are similar to a cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat (a high temperature is uncommon).
After about a week, you or your child:
- will get coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are worse at night
- may make a “whoop” sound – a gasp for breath between coughs (young babies and some adults may not “whoop”)
- may have difficulty breathing after a coughing bout and may turn blue or grey (young infants)
- may bring up a thick mucus, which can make you vomit
- may become very red in the face (more common in adults)
The cough may last for several weeks or months.