Home What you need to know about the Pertussis Outbreak in the Philippines

What you need to know about the Pertussis Outbreak in the Philippines

what you need to know about the pertussis outbreak in the philippines

“What is the pertussis outbreak? Is it a COVID-19 2.0 to look out for?”

The news of the pertussis outbreak in several localities in the country has sparked concern among the public. The timeline of this outbreak, somewhat reminiscent of the COVID-19 in 2020, has prompted questions about how long it will continue to make news in the Philippines.

Also known as whooping cough, Filipinos are eager to learn more about the pertussis cough symptoms, its causes, how to avoid it, whether there is a vaccine for it, and how long it lasts. Moreover, Quezon City, Iloilo City, and Cavite province have each declared a “state of calamity” due to the outbreak. Given this situation, it is crucial to deepen our understanding of this disease.

What is Pertussis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pertussis is a respiratory illness that can spread easily from one person to another. Notably, the disease is characterized by a high-pitched sound made at the end of the cough, which explains why it’s also called the whooping cough.

Furthermore, the Department of Health (DOH) revealed that pertussis starts as a mild cough and cold that lasts about two weeks. It is then followed by paroxysms or fits of coughing which can last up to six weeks.

“Pertussis is caused by bacteria – either Bordetella pertussis, or Bordetella parapertussis,” as per reports from DOH.

Infants infected with Bordetella pertussis may turn cyanotic or bluish when coughing. Moreover, while it mainly affects babies and young children, pertussis in adults is also likely.

Ultimately, people of all ages can get whooping cough symptoms. But it particularly strikes people who have not been vaccinated against it.

“..depending on the antibiotic used and the age and condition of the patient, treatment may run from 4 to 14 days,” the DOH added.

As of now, it is said that whooping cough cases are likewise rising in other parts of the world. This includes the United Kingdom and Canada.

Causes of Pertussis

As mentioned, Bordetella pertussis is the bacterial culprit behind the disease we commonly refer to as whooping cough. These bacteria have a particular affinity for the upper respiratory system, where they attach to cilia – small hair-like structures found in the nose, mouth, throat, and voice box. Moreover, within the mucous membranes of the human respiratory tract, B. pertussis and its cousin, B. parapertussis, find their natural habitat.

Upon attachment to the cilia, these bacteria release toxins that damage the cilia, causing swelling in the airways. This damage triggers severe coughing spells, which are characterized by a distinctive whooping sound upon inhalation.

The transmission of the bacterial infection primarily occurs through droplets released during sneezing or coughing. This mode of transmission makes whooping cough an exclusive disease of humans.

Pertussis Symptoms

According to the DOH, pertussis symptoms include mild fever, colds, and coughs lasting 7 to 10 days. Sneezing, nasal fluid, sore, watery eyes, and bluish lips, tongue, and nailbeds may also occur. Moreover, it takes about 10 days from direct contact for symptoms to manifest. 

While it can resemble an asthma attack, pertussis is distinguished by its distinctive cough sound. Whooping cough can last up to 10 weeks and lead to complications like pneumonia and fainting. With this, it is better to consult healthcare providers for a proper diagnosis.

Pertussis Outbreak Symptoms

Pertussis outbreaks pose challenges in detection and management. To address the identification of pertussis outbreak symptoms, active screening is crucial.

Public health officials should consider active screening to detect pertussis outbreak symptoms. Such screening is particularly beneficial in settings like schools, childcare centers, and hospitals.

Active screening aims to:

  • Minimize exposure to individuals with whooping cough
  • Prompt timely medical assessment and treatment of affected individuals
  • Facilitate the immediate use of antibiotics for high-risk close contacts.

How to avoid pertussis

The growing alarm associated with the pertussis outbreak in the Philippines begs to answer the question: How to avoid pertussis?

As per the CDC, the following are some ways with which you can avoid pertussis:

1. Preventive Antibiotics

Preventive antibiotics, also termed postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis (PEP), shield against harmful bacteria exposure to prevent illness. However, determining who should receive preventive antibiotics is typically decided by doctors and local health departments. For those exposed and with pertussis cough symptoms, CDC advises antibiotics if they live with the infected or are at high risk.

2. Good Hygiene

CDC recommends maintaining good hygiene to prevent the spread of bacteria causing whooping cough and other respiratory illnesses.

Cover your cough or sneeze:

  • Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose.
  • Dispose of used tissues immediately.
  • If tissue unavailable, cough into your upper sleeve or elbow.
  • Avoid coughing into your hands to prevent spreading germs.

Wash your hands frequently:

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water not accessible, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

3. Be wary of the foods you eat

It is advisable to drink plenty of fluids: e.g. water, juices, soups. Furthermore, kindly take note of the foods you must consume minimally to lessen the possibility of contracting the bacterial infection:

  • Ice-cream
  • Candies
  • Soft drinks
  • Sugary substances
  • Pickles
  • Condiments
  • Meats

Vaccine for Pertussis

Ultimately, the best way to prevent whooping cough is to get the vaccine for pertussis. The CDC advises vaccinating babies, children, preteens, and pregnant women. Additionally, adults should get Tdap shots if they haven’t. Accordingly, Tdap vaccines, such as Adacel® and Boostrix®, offer protection against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough.

At government health centers, infants aged six weeks and children aged 1 to 6 years receive free vaccines. For older children and adults, vaccine advice is available at health centers or from doctors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What causes pertussis?

Pertussis, known as whooping cough, stems from Bordetella pertussis bacteria.

How does pertussis spread?

Pertussis spreads through infectious droplets in the air, being highly contagious.

How long until pertussis signs appear after exposure?

The incubation period is typically 7 to 10 days, occasionally ranging from 4 to 21 days.

Who’s at risk for whooping cough?

Anyone, especially unvaccinated individuals, can contract whooping cough. It’s particularly dangerous for infants.

How is whooping cough treated?

Antibiotics help lessen severity and prevent spread within 3 weeks of symptom onset.

Is there a pertussis treatment?

Antibiotics are crucial in treating pertussis cases.

How long is pertussis contagious?

Contagiousness peaks during the catarrhal period and the initial two weeks post-cough onset.

How are vaccines for pertussis administered?

Injections are given in the thigh muscle for infants and the deltoid muscle for older recipients.

Who should receive vaccines for pertussis?

Children, starting at 2 months, and adults need protection against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

Is pertussis deadly?

Pertussis can be deadly, especially in infants and young children. Despite recovery being common with proper treatment, severe complications, including pneumonia and seizures, can arise. This risk is especially high for vulnerable populations, such as infants not yet fully vaccinated.

How to pronounce pertussis?

The correct pertussis pronunciation is per-TU-sis.

Sources: (1), (2), (3), (4)

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