PREGNANT mums are being urged to vaccinate themselves and their babies due to cases of whooping cough sharply rising across the region.
NHS England have said the illness, which can create breathing difficulties in children, has increased by 25 per cent across the South is now posing a serious risk to babies.
The warning comes as 40 per cent of pregnant women have not been protected against the condition.
Dr Nigel Acheson, NHS England South Regional Medical Director said: ‘People often think of whooping cough as an illness from days gone by - but it is a real threat to babies and young children right now and can lead to pneumonia, brain damage and even death.
‘The number of incidents increased by 25 per cent across the South in 2015, but despite the risk, on average, just 60 per cent of women receive the vaccination, meaning they are putting their baby at risk.
‘As we are approaching the winter flu season, I also urge pregnant women to receive their free flu vaccination, which they can have at the same time as whooping cough.
‘This way, they will protect themselves and their baby from both potentially fatal illnesses.’
The vaccine is given at a GP practice or in maternity units at the point of the foetal abnormality scan, from 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Ideally it should be given before 32 weeks, but it can still be given right up to the point of labour, but with reduced effectiveness.
For more information on the condition visit: nhs.co.uk/conditions/whooping-cough/pages/introduction.aspx.