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49 die of pertussis since Jan.; DOH keeps close watch

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The Department of Health (DOH) is keeping a close watch of the incidents of pertussis or whooping cough which has so far caused 49 deaths since last January.

As of March 23, the DOH logged 862 cases, mostly in Mimaropa with 187; Metro Manila with158; Central Luzon, 132; Central Visayas, 121; and Western Visayas, 72.

Of the total, 79 percent of the patients were under five years old.

At least 66 percent of the kids were either unvaccinated, or did not know their vaccination history, the DOH said.

Adults aged 20 and above accounted for only four percent of the cases.

“The DOH is cautious in interpreting trends as the number of cases may still change as there may be late consultations and reports,” the agency said in an advisory issued late Tuesday.

“Furthermore, the effects of increasing immunization efforts to stem the outbreak may not be seen in the data until 4-6 weeks after they are started,” it added.

Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said the DOH Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Units (RESUs) are in constant coordination with provincial, city, and municipal health offices to provide scientific advice.

“We are helping LGUs move to break transmission and protect children. Vaccines are available, and more have been ordered,” he said.

Pertussis starts as a mild cough and cold that last about two weeks, followed by paroxysms or fits of coughing which last up to six weeks.

There is a characteristic “whooping” or high-pitched sound in between coughs, especially when inhaling.

There can also be vomiting immediately after coughing, and low-grade fever.

Infants may not have a cough, instead, they may turn cyanotic or bluish when coughing.

Compared to cough found in other diseases, the DOH said the distinct “whoop” or high-pitched sound of pertussis is unique. Bronchial asthma may also have a similar sound, but only during asthma attacks and often without fever or other symptoms.

The DOH said a doctor will prescribe a course of treatment that should start as early as possible.

Depending on the antibiotic used and the age and condition of the patient, treatment may run from four to 14 days.

“It is important to consult a doctor and use antibiotics only as prescribed. Do not self-medicate, and always complete the number of days,” it warned.

The DOH said pertussis is transmitted from person to person through coughing or sneezing and advised the public to practice good respiratory hygiene: cover coughs and sneezing, wash hands often, or use alcohol if soap and water are not readily available.

“Since children may not be able to use face masks consistently, adults are highly encouraged to help protect them by wearing face masks properly, especially in areas with poor ventilation or crowded conditions,” it said. 


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