Five babies in England have died after being diagnoses with whooping cough, as cases continue to rise.

More than 2,700 whooping cough cases have been reported across England so far in 2024 – more than three times the number recorded in the whole of last year.

New UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures show there were 2,793 cases reported to the end of March.

That compares to 858 cases for the whole of 2023.

Health officials have noted a rapid rise in cases across the country, as the UKHSA said between January and the end of March, there have been five infant deaths.

UKHSA consultant epidemiologist Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam said: “Whooping cough can affect people of all ages, but for very young babies it can be extremely serious.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with those families who have so tragically lost their baby.”

In March alone, 1,319 cases were reported, according to the provisional data.

The bacterial infection, also known as pertussis, affects the lungs and breathing tubes.

Whooping cough can be called the “100-day cough” because of how long it can take to recover from it, and it spreads very easily.

What is Whooping cough?

The NHS reports that Whooping cough (pertussis) is a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes.

The infection can spread very easily and can lead to serious problems.

This is why the health service urges the public to get their babies and children vaccinated against it.

You can also get Whooping cough if you are an older child or an adult because neither vaccination nor infection can provide lifelong immunity.

What are the first signs of Whooping cough?

The NHS notes that the first symptoms of Whooping cough often appear like a cold.

These include a runny nose and a sore throat – but you should note that a high temperature is uncommon.

The health service then advises that after a week, the symptoms evolve into coughing bouts which last for a few minutes and are usually worse at night.

Other tell-tale signs include a “whoop” sound which can be heard in the gasp for air between coughs. This is more prevalent among babies rather than adults.

The Bolton News: The NHS says that the cough can last for several weeks or months. ( Getty Images)The NHS says that the cough can last for several weeks or months. ( Getty Images) (Image: Getty Images)

The coughing could also cause some difficulty breathing as well as some thick mucus which can make you vomit.

Babies and children may turn grey or blue after coughing.

Meanwhile, adults are most likely to go red in the face.

The NHS says that the cough can last for several weeks or months.

For more information and guidance, visit the NHS website.

When should I go to a GP or call NHS 111?

The NHS says that you make an urgent GP appointment or seek help from NHS 111 in the following situations:

  • your baby is under 6 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


The health service also noted that since Whooping cough can spread very easily, it is best to call the GP before you go in.

The medical professionals may suggest talking over the phone instead.