“Hospitalizations in intensive care and sometimes fatal outcomes”: 14 children have died from whooping cough in France since the start of 2024

“Hospitalizations in intensive care and sometimes fatal outcomes”: 14 children have died from whooping cough in France since the start of 2024

To protect little ones, Public Health France insists on the vaccination of mothers, and this during each pregnancy (illustration). Unsplash – Bermix Studio

The circulation of the bacteria causing whooping cough, "very significant during the first half of 2024 and which is intensifying in recent weeks", has resulted in a number of cases out of six first months of the year already higher than all of 2023.

Fourteen children have died since the start of the year, 80 hospitalized: a strong resurgence of whooping cough, more virulent than in recent years, particularly affects newborns, who are more vulnerable, due in particular to poorer vaccination than the rest of the population.

Given the unknowns about the scale and duration of the epidemic peak and the contagiousness of this respiratory infection, rarely serious, Public Health France called on Friday in its report for reinforced vigilance "as we approach major gatherings planned for this summer, notably the Olympic and Paralympic Games" of Paris, especially for those most at risk.

SpF has reported a sharp increase in mortality for this disease which returns in cycles of three to five years. For ten years, the year with the highest number of deaths under the age of 15 was 2017 with ten deaths for the entire year, compared to only three in 2023 for example.

It is especially infants, too young to be vaccinated (less than two months) against this very contagious respiratory infection, who are the most affected by serious forms, hospitalizations and deaths. Of the 14 child deaths recorded since January, 13 were less than two months old and one died following respiratory distress induced shortly after contracting whooping cough, said SPF.

"We see in this population of infants who are not yet vaccinated dramatic forms of whooping cough with hospitalizations in intensive care, and sometimes fatal outcomes", deplored to the& ;rsquo;AFP Philippe Sansonetti, professor emeritus at the Pasteur Institute and the Collège de France, judging that "it is not acceptable to see this again in France today& rsquo;hui".

To protect toddlers, Public Health France insists on the vaccination of mothers, and this at each pregnancy, since the fetus "benefits from the transplacental passage of antibodies pertussis medications which allow the child to be protected until individual vaccination protection is obtained".

Vaccination of pregnant women allows, for infants under three months, "to divide the risk of whooping cough by four, to halve the number of hospitalizations and to reduce the number of deaths linked to whooping cough by 95%", also wrote the Ministry of Health in a press release on Friday.

Grouped cases

As for the clustered cases noted by SPF, "the majority of clusters are intrafamilial or occur in communities (nursery, primary, middle and high schools) with a majority of cases not up to date with their vaccination", specifies SpF.

The newborn's entourage must also check that he/she is properly vaccinated against whooping cough, which requires boosters that are too often neglected, recalled Mr. Sansonetti. He observed "a real problem of revaccination", very important in whooping cough, because the new generation of vaccine is "extremely well tolerated but does not have the same effectiveness and duration of protection" as the old generation, which offered a very long immune memory but effects important secondaries.

Babies can in fact be contaminated by children just before the six-year mark, a phenomenon "not unexpected" vu "the duration of protection induced by vaccines", or that of twelve years according to SpF.

Vaccination against whooping cough is now part of compulsory infant vaccines, with one injection at two months and one at four months, then a booster at 11 months.

In addition to the boosters at 6 years old then between 11 and 13 years old, another is planned at 25 years old, then at any age for adults with parental plans or in close contact with babies.

The resurgence of whooping cough affects all of Europe: the ECDC (European Center for Disease Control) had already recorded between January 1 and 31; nbsp;March 2024 more than 32,000 cases compared to 25,130 cases in 2023.

In the UK, since January, 181 babies under three months have been diagnosed with whooping cough, and eight have died from it. Worldwide, there are around 40 million cases and 300,000 deaths each year, according to figures cited by SpF.

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