Iloilo health office urges vaccination amidst whooping cough deaths

By Mariela Angella Oladive

The Iloilo Provincial Health Office (IPHO) has urgently called for the vaccination of children against pertussis, also known as “whooping cough,” after the recent deaths of three infants from the illness.

“Based on the eighth morbidity report from Iloilo Provincial Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (IPESU) from January 1 to February 24 this year, the province has a total of six pertussis cases, three of which resulted in fatalities,” reported IPHO Health Service Delivery Division Chief Rodney Labis.

“The fatalities involved a two-month-old female infant from Miag-ao, a 24-day-old female infant from Dumangas, and a 28-day-old female infant from Balasan,” he added.

Labis detailed that two of the fatalities were suspected cases that presented symptoms fitting the disease’s case definition, with one instance where a specimen was not collected and another case pending confirmation. One fatality has been confirmed through laboratory testing.

“The case definition of pertussis in our disease surveillance is any person with a cough lasting at least two weeks, along with one of the following: paroxysms of coughing, respiratory whooping, or vomiting after coughing without apparent cause. So, anyone experiencing these symptoms can be reported for pertussis,” the health officer explained.

The municipalities with records of suspected and laboratory-confirmed cases are Santa Barbara, Balasan, Badiangan, Miag-ao, and Dumangas.

In line with the incident, the IPHO stressed the need for pertussis vaccinations.

“The disease is preventable through vaccination, available for free at health centers for infants at six, 10, and 14 weeks of age, requiring three doses. Ensure your child is vaccinated to protect them. If vaccination schedules are missed, contact barangay and municipal health workers promptly for vaccination,” Labis said as he cautioned against over-the-counter cough syrups

He advised close contacts of infected individuals to seek post-exposure prophylaxis, and emphasized the importance of early consultation for effective antibiotic treatment.

To mitigate pertussis spread, the IPHO recommended following standard public health practices such as covering the nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, disposing of tissues properly, wearing a face mask in crowded areas, regular handwashing, and home isolation of symptomatic individuals.

Pertussis, caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria, is defined as a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes severe, uncontrollable coughing fits that can leave the individual “whooping” for deep breaths afterward.

It affects people of all ages but poses a greater risk and is even fatal for unvaccinated young children and infants.

Symptoms typically manifest within five to 10 days post-infection and progress from cold-like symptoms to paroxysmal coughing, often worsening at night.

The IPHO’s proactive measures aim to protect vulnerable infants and curb the disease’s transmission within communities, emphasizing the importance of timely vaccination and prompt medical intervention in pertussis cases.