WHOOPING cough is on the rise across the country and there are unconfirmed reports of two cases at a West Fife high school.

A bacterial infection that affects the lungs and breathing tubes, it can affect people of all ages but babies and young children can become "particularly unwell" and are at risk of complications, with health officials concerned that it is spreading.

The intense bouts of coughing can last for months and the current outbreak - there were 1,084 cases of whooping between January and March compared to just 73 for the whole of 2023 - is already the worst for more than a decade and is mainly affecting children aged 10 to 14 in Scotland.

The Press was told of two cases of whooping cough at a local high school and asked NHS Fife for a response.

Dr Oliver Harding, consultant in public health medicine with the East Region Health Protection Team, said: “Pertussis, or ‘whooping cough’ as it is more commonly known, is particularly contagious and has been rising in prevalence across the UK since the start of this year.

"Fife is no different and we have seen cases across the Kingdom in recent weeks and months.

“Whooping cough is spread in the droplets of the coughs or sneezes of someone with the infection.

"The first symptoms are generally similar to those of a cold, such as a runny nose, red and watery eyes, a sore throat and a slightly raised temperature.

"Intense bouts of coughing usually start around a week or so afterwards and can last for many weeks, and sometimes a number of months."

He added: "While the infection can affect people of all ages, babies and younger children can become particularly unwell and are at an increased risk of complications.

"The best means of protecting young children against the effects of whooping cough is to get vaccinated against the infection.”

Public health chiefs have urged pregnant women and parents with young children to ensure their vaccinations are up to date amid fears that the highly contagious infection will continue circulating at high levels until the autumn.

The UK Health Security Agency confirmed that eight babies have died in England as a result of whooping cough this year.  There are three routine vaccinations that can protect babies and young children.

While they don't offer lifelong protection against whooping cough, they can help prevent children getting pertussis when they’re young and more vulnerable to the effects.

For more information on whooping cough and vaccinations, please visit: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/whooping-cough/