Pertussis Cases Plummet in England

Dawn O'Shea

May 17, 2021

The number of laboratory-confirmed cases of pertussis in England fell by 98 percent in the last three months of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

The latest data from Public Health England (PHE) show that just 20 confirmed cases were documented between October and December last year, compared with 933 in the same period of 2019.

Overall, there were 980 cases throughout 2020, a drop of more than 26 percent from 3681 in 2019, even though the number of cases in the first quarter of 2020 was 33 percent higher than in the same quarter of 2019.

The number of confirmed cases in infants under three months continues to remain low, with no confirmed cases in quarter 4, compared with 19 and 15 cases in the same quarter in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

There were also no confirmed cases in infants aged between three and 11 months. This is the first quarter that no confirmed cases in infants aged less one year have been reported since the introduction of enhanced surveillance in 1994.

Between October and December 2020, 65 percent (13 cases) of laboratory-confirmed cases in England occurred in individuals aged 15 years or older.

There were no reported deaths in infants with pertussis confirmed between October and December 2020. The last pertussis-related death of an infant was reported in the second quarter (April to June) of 2019. Of the 20 infants who have died following confirmed pertussis disease and who were born after the introduction of the maternal vaccination programme on 1 October 2012, 18 were born to mothers who had not been immunised during pregnancy.

However, pertussis vaccine coverage in pregnant women averaged 68.0 percent across the October to December 2020 quarter, 4.1 percent lower than the average coverage for the same quarter in 2019.

PHE attributes the decline on the COVID-19 lockdown measures. In the latest Health Protection Report, PHE says the pandemic and the implementation of social distancing measures and lockdown across the UK from 23 March 2020 has had a significant impact on the spread and detection of other infections, including pertussis.


Laboratory confirmed cases of pertussis in England: October to December 2020. Health Protection Report Volume 15 Number 8. Public Health England. 2021 May 11.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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