Study reveals huge cost of whooping cough epidemic

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A whooping cough epidemic in England cost more than £2 million after nearly 1,000 people were admitted to hospital for treatment, a study finds today.

The 2012 epidemic saw the highest numbers of reported cases of the condition since the 1990s, with babies accounting for 85 per cent of hospital admissions.

Official figures show 14 babies died with the illness in England in 2012, and there were another three fatalities last year.

Since October 2012, vaccination against whooping cough has been recommended for all pregnant women in the UK to reduce cases in newborns, the group most vulnerable to complications and death, leading to a dramatic fall in cases in babies from 407 in 2012 in England to 85 in 2013.

There were 9,367 confirmed cases of the condition in 2012, falling by half last year to 4,623.

Figures show 934 people needed hospital care due to the illness in the 12 months to February 2013 - three times the average in the previous six years - at a cost of £2.2m.

Research to be presented today at the annual meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases in Dublin said each hospital case cost on average £2,436.

Health economics analyst Victoria Coles, who led the research at pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur MSD, which makes whooping cough vaccines, said: “The 2012 whooping cough outbreak led to increased secondary care costs in England – almost double the previous peak year.

“These results highlight the importance of appropriate vaccination strategies with good vaccination coverage rates to help ease the burden on the secondary care system in England.”