The number of cases of whooping cough has been rising sharply in Belgium over the last few months. Infants are the most at risk of both catching the disease and dying from it. Blood tests have now shown that the risk of toddlers catching whooping cough is greatly reduced if the mother gets vaccinated against the disease during pregnancy, writes Flemish daily De Standaard on Friday. While in the womb, the foetus received antibodies against the disease which are strong enough to protect the child until it is able to get vaccinated. The findings come from the results of a study of Flemish women and children which was presented at the University of Antwerp on Friday on the occasion of its annual symposium on immunisation.
In early February, recent figures released by Wallonia-Brussels Infectious Disease Surveillance Unit indicate that some 823 cases of whooping cough were reported in Wallonia in 2014, compared to 110 in 2012. In Flanders, the number of cases was 1,055 last year, about 7 times more than three years previously. The most affected age group is non-vaccinated newborns for whom the disease can be fatal, says De Standaard.
Babies are usually first vaccinated against whooping cough at the age of two months, but the infant is only partially protected until the next dose is administered at the age of 3 months. Between the two jabs, the infant is at risk of being contaminated by teen or adult carriers of the bacteria and for whom the symptoms are less severe than in infants. Vaccination-info.be, an information website on vaccines whose content is supervised by the NGO Question Health, states that since 2013 pregnant women in Wallonia-Brussels Federation are advised to get themselves vaccinated against whooping cough between their 24th and 32nd week of pregnancy.