HEALTH chiefs are urging pregnant women to get vaccinated against whooping cough after new figures reveal a rise in cases in the county.

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The Health Protection Agency (HPA) are at a loss to explain the sharp rise across the region with nearly ten times more cases of the infection reported in the east of England in 2012, compared to 2011.

The HPA is no nearer to finding the cause or the reasons behind the outbreak, which has led to the death of 13 babies across the country in the last year.

In Suffolk there were 174 whooping cough cases last year, compared to the year before. And in Norfolk 14 cases in 2011 rose to 157 in 2012. In Great Yarmouth and Waveney there was a jump from four to 60 in the same time.

It comes as figures, revealed in Monday’s Star, show 73% of eligible expectant mums in Suffolk had the vaccine in December – an 84.8% rise in two months – and higher than the national average of 54.5%.

Chelsea Thompson, 21, from Chantry, who lost her four-week-old daughter Sarae Thompson-Haynes to the infection last March, is expecting her second daughter in the next few weeks.

She told The Star: “I don’t know why anyone would think twice about having it [the vaccine].”

The bacterial infection can affect anyone, but babies and young children are more at risk. Cases of whooping cough were prevalent in the 1950s, when it cased hundreds of deaths a year, resulting in a vaccine.

Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: “We would like to remind pregnant women how serious this infection can be in young babies and how it can, in some cases, cause death.

“It is important that, parents still ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough on time, even babies of women who have had the vaccine in pregnancy – this is to continue their baby’s protection through childhood,” she said.

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