Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Outbreaks

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Outbreaks

Pertussis, commonly referred to as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It is characterized by severe and uncontrollable coughing fits that can cause breathing difficulties. 

While pertussis can affect people of all ages, it poses a particularly serious and sometimes fatal threat to infants under one year old. The bacteria responsible for pertussis are typically spread through coughing, sneezing, or close contact with infected individuals.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Outbreaks gawcams Report

Initial symptoms of pertussis are often mild and resemble those of a common cold, such as a runny nose, low-grade fever, and a mild cough. However, as the illness progresses, symptoms can worsen, leading to frequent coughing fits accompanied by a distinctive high-pitched "whoop," vomiting, and extreme fatigue. In infants, coughing may not be prominent, and they may experience periods of breathlessness known as apnea.

The most effective way to prevent whooping cough is through vaccination. Vaccines like DTaP and Tdap, which also provide protection against diphtheria and tetanus, are recommended. Infants and young children should receive multiple doses to establish and maintain immunity. Additionally, adults who have not previously been vaccinated should get a Tdap vaccination, followed by booster shots every ten years using either TD or Tdap vaccines.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) has voiced concern regarding the resurgence of measles and pertussis (whooping cough). Over the last six months, more than 2,600 measles cases have been reported nationwide, with 4,000 cases recorded in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Outbreaks have been identified in Lanao Del Sur, Lanao Del Norte, and Surigao Sulu. Health authorities are actively investigating and addressing this situation, emphasizing the critical importance of vaccination, particularly for children as young as six months old.

As of March 10, 2024 there have been 453 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) with 35 fatalities in the first 10 weeks of this year. This marks an increase compared to the same period last year. Quezon City has declared a pertussis outbreak and is currently undertaking vaccination efforts to contain its spread.

In Canada, specifically in Okotoks, Alberta, a new outbreak of pertussis has emerged, prompting health officials to stress the significance of immunization. Seventeen cases of whooping cough have been confirmed in the Okotoks area since November, including one individual who required hospitalization.

Despite measles and pertussis being part of routine vaccinations, outbreaks persist due to low coverage of fully immunized children. In the Philippines, only 72% of children are fully vaccinated, resulting in a rise in susceptible or unvaccinated individuals.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Outbreaks

3M pertussis vaccine doses, nakatakdang dumating sa PH sa lalong madaling panahon – DOH

March 26, 2024

The Department of Health (DOH) has made an announcement that 3 million doses of the pertussis vaccine are scheduled to arrive in the Philippines as soon as possible.

Included in the upcoming vaccine delivery are the pentavalent shots, which offer protection against various vaccine-preventable diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, and hemophilus influenza type B.

To address the resurgence of pertussis, which can be life-threatening and is transmitted through respiratory droplets, the DOH has already distributed 64,400 pentavalent shots to children.

Certain areas in Metro Manila and Iloilo City have observed a rise in pertussis cases.

Based on data from the DOH, there have been 453 documented cases of pertussis in the first 10 weeks of 2024, with 35 reported deaths attributed to the disease.

On March 26, 2024

Mayor Francis Zamora of San Juan took the lead in addressing the increasing number of pertussis, also known as "whooping cough," cases in the National Capital Region.

The objective of this initiative is to raise awareness among residents and barangay officials about the significance of regular immunization, which is provided free of charge at government health centers.

During the vaccination campaign, children between the ages of 0 to 23 months received vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, and HiB (haemophilus influenza type B).

In collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH), the city government launched this vaccination drive to prevent the spread of pertussis, particularly among infants.

As of March 16, 2024, the DOH had documented 111 cases of pertussis in Metro Manila.

What are the symptoms of pertussis?

The symptoms of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, can vary depending on the stage of the infection. The disease typically progresses through three stages: catarrhal, paroxysmal, and convalescent. Here are the common symptoms associated with each stage:

Catarrhal stage:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Mild cough
  • Low-grade fever
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Paroxysmal stage:

  • Intense bouts of rapid, uncontrollable coughing
  • Coughing fits may be followed by a high-pitched "whooping" sound when inhaling or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin, particularly around the mouth and nose)

Convalescent stage:

  • Coughing episodes become less frequent and milder
  • Recovery from the illness may take several weeks or even months

It's important to note that the symptoms of pertussis can be less severe or even absent in infants, making it harder to diagnose. In some cases, pertussis may be mistaken for a common cold or bronchitis.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms that could be related to pertussis, it is important to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early detection and appropriate management can help prevent complications and reduce the spread of the disease.

Who is most at risk for complications from pertussis?

The individuals who are at the highest risk for complications from pertussis are infants and young children. This is due to their developing immune systems, which make them more susceptible to severe symptoms and complications. Infants under the age of 1, particularly those who have not received complete vaccination, face the greatest risk.

Complications of pertussis in infants and young children can include pneumonia, seizures, encephalopathy (inflammation of the brain), apnea (breathing pauses), and even death. These complications are severe and often necessitate hospitalization and intensive medical care.

Additionally, pregnant women, particularly those in their third trimester, and individuals with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions may also be at an increased risk of complications from pertussis.

The most effective method of safeguarding against pertussis and its complications is through vaccination. It is recommended for infants, children, adolescents, and adults, including pregnant women. Ensuring that eligible individuals are vaccinated and maintaining high vaccination rates within the community can help safeguard vulnerable populations and reduce the risk of pertussis complications.

What are the complications of pertussis in infants and young children?

Complications of pertussis in infants and young children can be serious and potentially life-threatening. Some of the complications include:

Pneumonia: Pertussis can lead to pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. This can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, and fever.

Seizures: Pertussis can cause seizures in infants and young children. Seizures are sudden, uncontrolled movements or changes in behavior that occur due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Encephalopathy: Pertussis can lead to encephalopathy, which is inflammation of the brain. This can cause symptoms such as confusion, seizures, and changes in behavior or consciousness.

Apnea: Pertussis can cause apnea, which is a pause in breathing. Infants with pertussis may have episodes where they stop breathing for a short period of time, which can be life-threatening.

Death: In severe cases, pertussis can lead to death, especially in infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated and have not developed immunity against the infection.

It is important to seek medical attention if a child is suspected of having pertussis, as early treatment can help prevent or manage these complications. Vaccination is the best way to prevent pertussis and its complications in infants and young children.

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