Whooping Cough News

Data from Public Health England

Whooping cough news items

12th November 2020

The graph above is rather startling. It starts a year ago in November 2019 when notifications were about 100 per week, somewhat more than the same time in 2018, but in line with the 4 yearly cycling of whooping cough which was expected to peak in the last quarter of 2020.

Lockdown in the UK started in week 13, 2020. The graph shows a sharp fall beginning in week 12. If the figures a true reflection of incidence then it suggests people must have been taking anti infection precautions before the lockdown came into effect as one would expect at least a 3 week lag between infection and diagnosis.

Many other infectious diseases have shown similar falls. How much is true reduction and how much is missed diagnosis or notification is open to debate, but it is exceedingly interesting.

9th August 2020

The Covid-19 lockdown appears to have affected whooping cough transmission if the statistics are to be believed. There is vastly less whooping cough compared with March and April when the lockdown policies were being implemented in most countries. At that time in the UK notifications were running at about 50 to 100 per week; fairly usual one would say.

Over the last month or two, notifications have dropped to about five per week. This is a remarkable drop and it is unlikely to to be explained by patients and medics being distracted by Covid, although that might play a small part.

It is most likely that isolation from other people, as required in lockdown breaks the transmission. This is not surprising given what we know about how it is transmitted (probably very similarly to Covid-19). The magnitude of the change is remarkable and will probably change the way we regard transmissible infections in the future. I am thinking principally about our ‘carry on regardless, and not wearing masks’ behaviour, which has been part of our cultural norm in Europe.

3rd July 2020

2020 is to be the expected peak in the 4 yearly cycles in the UK (and in some other countries too).

The first half of 2020 started with indications that the numbers were slightly up 2019 consistent with expectations.  Numbers from about April however dropped by about 80%.

There are two possible explanations. Firstly, it could be that the demands of covid-19 management have distracted from other diseases. Secondly it could be that the social distancing and disinfection required for covid-19 control has interrupted pertussis transmission concomitantly.