Six people – five children and an adult from Springfield Village, Cayo District, have developed symptoms of what health workers suspect is the highly contagious whooping cough of pertussis.
The discovery on September 3, caused the Ministry of Health to spring into action immediately.
Multi-disciplinary surveillance teams conducted field visits to identify suspected cases, trace contacts and collect specimens.
The six patients are now fully recovered and in good health. The ministry is awaiting laboratory confirmation from specimens of body fluids, which were collected and sent to the Caribbean Epidemiology Center in Trinidad.
The teams also provided on-site treatment to villagers and instructed them on how to identify whooping cough from its onset, and what preventive measures they can take.
Pertussis is caused by bacteria, which triggers episodes of violent and uncontrollable coughing for about six weeks. Often the coughing makes it hard for the victim to breathe. The illness so named because its victims make a deep, “whooping” sound as they try to take a breath.
The disease most commonly affects infants and young children. It is sometimes fatal, especially for infants less than a year old.
There are vaccines which provide effective protection against whooping cough although a vaccinated persons will sometimes get the disease, but with less severe results.
The Ministry of Health has a DPT vaccine which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The ministry is offering free vaccination in all six districts for children at ages 2, 4 and 6 months. A follow-up vaccine is given at age 4.
The Ministry is also asking that anyone who develops any severe episode of coughing, experiences difficulty in breathing, makes a “whooping noise” while coughing, or gets an urge to vomit when coughing, to report to the nearest health facility.
Infected persons usually first develop symptoms within 7-10 days after exposure.
The disease can be transmitted during the flu-like stage and during the first two weeks, at the beginning of the violent coughing stage.