U.K. whooping cough cases drop

The Health Protection Agency recently reported that the number of whooping cough cases continued to drop in England and Wales in January.

The HPA said that there were 668 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, in January, a decrease from December's 835 cases. While the number of monthly infections was still unusually high, the January figure represented less than half the number of cases reported at the peak of the outbreak, BBC reports.

In 2012, England and Wales experienced more than 10,000 cases of whooping cough in the largest outbreak of the disease in decades.

"The January figures show a welcome continued decrease of whooping cough cases since October," Gayatri Amirthalingam, a consultant epidemiologist for immunization at the HPA, said, according to BBC. "However, it is very important to note that we usually see a reduction in cases of whooping cough at this time of year so this decrease is in line with normal seasonal patterns."

During the outbreak, 14 infants died from whooping cough, spurring a program to vaccinate pregnant women to pass protection from mother to child. Approximately 60 percent of pregnant women accepted the immunization.

"Parents should also be alert to the signs and symptoms of whooping cough - which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic 'whoop' sound in young children but as a prolonged cough in older children or adults," Amirthalingam said, according to BBC.