Whooping cough: Sharp rise of pertussis cases in SA

Whooping cough: Sharp rise in pertussis cases in SA
Parents have been urged to check the vaccination statuses of their children as whooping cough cases rise in South Africa. (Photo: Freepik)

Parents of young children have been urged to ensure their kids’ vaccinations are up to date as cases of pertussis, known as whooping cough, rise rapidly in South Africa.

147 cases have been recorded since the start of 2022, with a sharp increase in cases between  July and September. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has urged parents and caregivers to monitor children closely. In a statement released yesterday, it said 77% of cases were children under 5 years of age (113/147). Another 89 (79%) were children less than 3 months old.  42% of cases (62/147) were from the Western Cape. 

Whooping cough and vaccination statuses

“Of the 34 children less than 5 years of age, only 26 have vaccination statuses, of which 65% (17/26) were up to date with their vaccinations,” the statement read. 

The NICD said very few pertussis cases were reported through the notifiable medical conditions (NMC) surveillance system in 2020 and 2021. They believe non-pharmaceutical interventions to prevent COVID-19 from spreading also decreased whooping cough infection.

Parents and clinicians should be on alert for early symptoms of the disease and must seek medical attention for unwell children.

Cold-like symptoms

“Pertussis symptoms may vary from person to person. Initial signs and symptoms may include nasal congestion, a runny nose, a mild or dry cough and minimal fever. Days later, the cough can become more severe and is characterised by episodes of paroxysms. This is followed by a whooping sound or vomiting after coughing,” the NICD said.

According to the World Health Organisation, pertussis spreads easily from person to person, mainly through droplets produced by coughing or sneezing.The disease is most dangerous in infants and is a significant cause of disease and death in this age group. The first symptoms generally appear 7 to 10 days after infection. While people with pertussis are most contagious up to about three weeks after the cough begins, many children who contract the infection have coughing spells that last four to eight weeks. – Health-e News



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