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Whooping Cough

Volume 113: debated on Monday 30 March 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what evidence is available to his Department regarding the connection between whooping cough and permanent severe brain damage in children.

[pursuant to her reply, 13 March 1987, c. 327]: The Swansea research unit of the Royal College of General Practitioners studied 2,295 cases of whooping cough in the period 1977–79 and identified two children with inflammation of the brain, one of whom died. The whooping cough report published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office in 1981 noted 15 previously normal children who had recently contracted whooping cough. One died, one was left with major neurological problems and a third had a mild speech defect 12 months after the illness. The remaining 12 children were normal by that stage. In the United States, the journal "Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Reports" on 12 October 1984 reported that among 3,159 children who had whooping cough in 1982 and 1983, 1·9 per cent. developed convulsions and 0·3 per cent. inflammation of the brain.Other references include "Infectious Diseases" by A. M. Ramsey and R. T. D. Edmond (1978) and "Infectious Diseases" by A. B. Christie (3rd edition 1980). Both these publications quote further examples and comment on the potentially serious outlook for children who develop convulsions in the course of whooping cough.