Whooping cough symptoms: UK tourists issued travel warning as outbreak of contagious disease in Greece leaves two dead and 50 ill

UK holidaymakers have been issued a Greece travel warning as cases of deadly disease, whooping cough, surge leaving two dead and 50 ill

Two people have died after a bacterial infection, whooping cough, has spread through a popular holiday destination. One of the fatal victims was an adult with underlying health conditions and a new-born baby also died.

The infection has spread through Greece with 54 cases recorded since the start of 2024. Thirty-two of the patients are said to have been children and teens, and 11 babies under the age of one were also affected, according to Ekathethimerini newspaper. Greece's National Public Health Organisation confirmed the illness had caused two fatalities in the country. 

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Health Minister Eirini Agapidaki has urged people to get vaccinated against the illness as the cases continue to surge. The whooping cough is known to be most deadly for infants and young children. According to the NHS it is a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes, and it spreads very easily.

Greece is not the only country affected as several other hotspots have also confirmed cases. In its Communicable Disease Threats Report, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) flagged rising cases in locations as far flung as Croatia, Norway, the Netherlands and Spain.

UK holidaymakers have been issued a Greece travel warning as cases of deadly disease, whooping cough, surge leaving two dead and 50 ill. (Photo: SOOC/AFP via Getty Images)UK holidaymakers have been issued a Greece travel warning as cases of deadly disease, whooping cough, surge leaving two dead and 50 ill. (Photo: SOOC/AFP via Getty Images)
UK holidaymakers have been issued a Greece travel warning as cases of deadly disease, whooping cough, surge leaving two dead and 50 ill. (Photo: SOOC/AFP via Getty Images) | SOOC/AFP via Getty Images

The ECDC said: "Pertussis (as whooping cough is also known) is an endemic disease worldwide, even in the presence of a programme with high vaccination coverage, with peaks in disease spread every three to five years. The current increase is potentially linked to lower circulation during the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with sub-optimal vaccination uptake in certain groups. Infants and young children who are too young to be fully vaccinated have also been affected, including several deaths."

A record-breaking number of cases were detected in Czechia this year, 3,101 between January to March 2024. It's the largest number seen in 60 years. 

Croatia saw 6,261 cases of whooping cough between January 2023 and March 15 this year. Another 822 records were registered in Denmark, 707 in Norway, 1,749 in and Spain saw another 5,242 cases up to March this year. 

The 100-day cough can be difficult to spot due to its cold-like symptoms. The fast-spreading infection can cause a runny nose, high temperature and a sore throat. Parents have been warned that young infants could turn blue or grey after suffering from breathing difficulties. Meanwhile, another symptom has been listed as thick mucus, which could lead to vomiting, or turning red in the face which appears more to adults. Members of the public have been told to "stay at home and do not go into work, school or nursery until 48 hours after starting antibiotics, or 3 weeks after symptoms start if they have not had antibiotics".

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