Whooping cough in Portugal “back at levels from the 1960s”

Tiny babies are once again at risk of contracting whooping cough in Portugal. RTP news reports that the disease is ‘back at levels not seen since the 1960s’, when Portugal did not have access to whooping cough vaccine. In August, 420 cases were reported, almost double those registered in the same period in 2015. To reduce risks, national health chiefs are introducing whooping cough vaccinations for all expectant mothers.

Explaining the problem, vice health director-general Graça Freitas told RTP that whooping cough comes from a bacteria that never dies out. It can affect adults “lightly” – to the point they are hardly aware of it. If those adults come into contact with young babies before the babies have been vaccinated, the bacteria can pass with “very serious consequences”.

In some cases, babies can suffer neurological damage. In ‘old days’, they could even die.

Thus, the struggle to safeguard newborns, which Freitas said is behind the government’s decision to introduce whooping cough vaccines for pregnant women.

Each pregnancy will require a new vaccine, said Freitas, adding that any expectant mother concerned by the news can now can buy the vaccine “perfectly easily” over the counter for €20. If not, next year it will be included in the national vaccination programme.

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