The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has highlighted the importance of the whooping cough vaccination programme, as cases of the condition have more than doubled over the last 12 months.
The HPA said peaks of this kind are normal every three to four years, but stressed that parents should make sure their child is protected as soon as possible.
Last year there were 1,040 cases of whooping cough in the UK, which is up from 421 in 2010.
The HPA said that the figures seen in 2011 follow on from the last peak, which was in 2009, when there were 902 cases.
Currently there is a vaccination programme for young children, but there is evidence that more 15 to 40-year-olds have begun to pick up the illness.
In adults the illness can be treated with antibiotics and never usually causes any long-term problems, but adults are more infectious than youngsters and can spread the disease more easily.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: “We usually see a rise in cases of whooping cough every three to four years as the disease peaks in cycles, with 2008 being the last peak year.
“The uptake of the vaccine which protects against whooping cough is very good but it is a highly infectious disease so when there is a case it can spread quickly.
“Parents should ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity.”