Doctors and hospitals were reminded on Monday that mothers-to-be should get one dose of a whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy as part of their routine antenatal care to provide direct protection to their child against the highly contagious disease. Announcing its latest recommendations on the airborne disease, also known as pertussis, the Centre for Health Protection also said it issued a letter to local doctors and hospitals on the matter. The recommendation for pregnant women to receive the vaccine was endorsed by the centre’s committee on diseases, which factored in research by the World Health Organisation. There has been a sharp rise in the number of infected infants in recent years. In January this year alone, there were nine cases. This compared with five cases for the same month last year and six cases in January 2017. “For pregnant women, the timing of vaccination is recommended to be in the second or third trimester, preferably before 35 weeks of gestation,” the centre said. By inoculating the mother before giving birth, the vaccine’s protection would be passed to the child. It could also be transferred by breastfeeding. Pregnant Hongkongers urged to get whooping cough vaccine as number of cases in city almost doubles leaving some infants in intensive care New mothers who had not been vaccinated were advised to do so at once, the centre said, preferably before leaving hospital. Last year, 110 people contracted the disease, the highest level since at least 1997 when public records were available. Of them, 97 were “locally acquired infections”, six were imported infections from mainland China. The place of infection of the remaining seven cases could not be ascertained. There were 69 cases in 2017, up from 31 in 2016. According to the centre, 72 of the 179 cases in 2017 and 2018 were infants younger than six months old, and 35 of those cases were infants aged below two months. One child and seven adults die in five days in deadly start to flu season A spokesman for the Department of Health said it was too early to speculate on a large-scale vaccination campaign. “The [department] has been actively planning the implementation of the recommendations in collaboration with the Hospital Authority, details will be announced in due course,” he said. Infants generally received their first whooping cough vaccine at two months old but some newborns could be infected with the disease before their first jab. Adults accounted for about half of the cases in 2017 and 2018, up from about 20 per cent to 35 per cent from 2013 to 2016. Among the adult cases, 83 per cent had no whooping cough vaccination. China hit by new vaccine scandal, as up to 18 children given wrong shot The symptoms of whooping cough could be a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and mild cough. The cough would gradually become more severe and spells of violent coughing could interfere with eating, drinking and breathing. The bacteria could cause lung infections, and even lead to seizures and comas in severe cases, according to the centre. It was also recommended that pregnant women receive the seasonal flu jab, which could be administered with a pertussis-containing vaccine during the same visit.