Whooping cough spreading in Mpumalanga

Written by Cynthia Maseko

The Mpumalanga Department of Health has observed a sudden increase in pertussis, commonly known as “whooping cough” in children under five, and particularly one year-olds.

Last month 13 cases were reported in the province, and this month there have been 29 cases to date.

About 23 cases were reported in the Nkangala district at Emalahleni sub-district where three teachers and 11 learners at the Panorama Primary School were infected. The Gert Sibande and Ehanzeni districts have reported three cases each and there have been no deaths.

Pertussis is a highly contagious illness, but it is a vaccine-preventable disease caused by a germ known as bordella pertussis.

The disease is spread when a person with pertussis sneezes, coughs or breathes. The pertussis germs live in a sick person’s nose, mouth and throat and are spread in droplets of mucous or saliva. A healthy person can get pertussis when they are exposed to droplets from an infected person.


Initial signs and symptoms are similar to the common cold and may include nasal congestion, runny nose, mild sore throat, mild dry cough and minimal or no fever.

Days later, the cough can become more severe and is characterized by episodes of paroxysms (severe attacks of coughing) followed by a whooping sound and/or vomiting after coughing. Paroxysmal cough may last between one to two months.

Adolescents and adults who are previously vaccinated may also present differently when infected, with minimal symptoms such as a sore throat or a persistent cough.

The public is advised to be on the high alert if anyone or child is experiencing or developing cold-like symptoms including a cough and runny nose, to immediately consult the nearest health facility to get medical help.

Anyone who has been diagnosed with pertussis by a doctor or healthcare facility should avoid mixing with other people, especially infants and pregnant women, to prevent the further spread of the disease.

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.

About the author

Cynthia Maseko

Cynthia Maseko joined OurHealth in 2013 as a citizen journalist working in Mpumalanga. She is passionate about women’s health issues and joined Treatment Action Campaign branch as a volunteer after completing her matric. As an activist she has been involved with Equal Treatment, Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and also with Marie Stopes Clinic’s project Blue Star dealing with the promotion of safe abortions and HIV education.