Pregnant women and children in the South West have been urged to have the whooping cough vaccination.
Figures published by the Health Protection Agency show there were 53 infant cases of whooping cough in Somerset during the first ten months of this year compared with just six cases during the last peak year of 2008. Almost 8,000 cases of whooping cough have been confirmed for England and Wales this year.
The national figure is nearly ten times higher than for the same period in 2008 when 797 cases were reported.
GPs and Public Health Advisors have made the vaccination call as young infants can be at the highest risk from whooping cough – with severe complications even leading to death.
Julie Yates, Public Health Consultant with NHS Somerset, said: "Getting vaccinated while you're pregnant should help to protect your baby from developing whooping cough in his or her first few weeks of life. The immunity you get from the vaccine will pass to your baby through the placenta. Babies are not vaccinated against whooping cough until they are two months old.
"We also strongly recommend all women make sure their children receive their whooping cough vaccinations on time."
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. It spreads when a person with the infection coughs and sheds the bacterium which is then inhaled by another person.