Risk to babies of smoking while pregnant

I've been noticing a rise in media stories about severe meningococcal disease in Australia.  I was curious as to whether the rate of cases has risen, or the media is more aware of the disease.  I had read that it is traditionally quite a rare condition and while serious for some, in the past many survived the infection. 

According to reports I read, the rate of infection has risen from between 1 to 2 per cent in the late nineties to around 24 per cent recently, with public health authorities in the UK and Australia inundated with seriously ill young children in particular.  Side effects of a severe infection include the need to amputate limbs or death.

The traditional risks of MD includes being immune compromised due to HIV, not having a spleen and living in crowded conditions.  Being very young also may increase the risk of infection.

I was curious as to what was causing the sharp increase in cases in recent years.  According to the below link, maternal smoking (smoking by pregnant women) and babies and young children exposed to second hand smoke significantly increases the risk of an infection and further increases the risk that the infection will be life threatening.  The day before I discovered this research, I had read that the rate of smoking has increased in pregnant women in their thirties with a university education.  I find that all quite scary and mind-boggling that it is the women who are educated who are engaging in high risk behaviour which research shows increases the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, impaired development of their baby, low birth rate, birth defects, higher rates of infection, asthma, respiratory infections, mild cognitive impairment (intellectual disability) and premature birth.

Research showing a link between maternal smoking and MD in babies and young children:
http://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-12-1062

Research showing a link between maternal smoking and birth defect risk:
http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/07/09/humupd.dmr022.full

Maternal smoking risk to children:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1518686

Disclaimer: while reasonable efforts have been made to provide accurate and up to date information, anyone seeking medical advice should seek the advice of qualified medical professionals.  This is for general information purposes only.

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