Nurses working with babies should be vaccinated against whooping cough to protect them against the infection and to stop them passing it on to their very young patients, the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said.
Confirmed cases of whooping cough in England and Wales are continuing to rise, with the 675 cases reported in June bringing the total so far this year to 2,466 - more than double the total for 2011, according to Health Protection Agency (HPA) figures.
The increase, which is continuing from the second half of 2011, has been reported across all regions in England with some areas reporting clusters in schools and healthcare settings.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: 'We are very concerned about the ongoing increase in cases and we are working closely with the DH's JCVI to consider the most effective ways to tackle the ongoing outbreak.
'The JCVI is reviewing a number of options including the introduction of a booster dose in teenagers and offering whooping cough vaccination to pregnant women.'
Dr Ramsay welcomed the recommendation to vaccinate healthcare workers, which was made at the JCVI's June meeting.
'Vaccination is the most effective way to protect people from this infection and uptake of the vaccine in the UK is very good. In addition to this, parents should ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity,' she said.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a cyclical disease with increases occurring every three to four years. The last peak was in 2008 when 421 cases were reported between 1 January and 30 June, compared with 2,466 cases for the first six months of 2012.