THE Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations is currently investigating confirmed and suspected cases of Pertussis or whooping cough, which is a flu like illness in children.
The Ministry has to date identified six suspected cases of which two have been confirmed as having ‘whooping cough”.
According to the Ministry all of the cases have been treated. Two cases, of children, one 4 weeks old and another of five months are currently admitted and receiving treatment in hospital.
Whooping cough, is a respirator disease caused by bacteria known as Bordetella Pertussis. The disease which usually starts like a common flu, with runny nose, may develop further if not treated with appropriate antibiotics. Infants and young children are more severely affected and can suffer bouts of coughing that end with a “whooping sound.”
Whooping cough is a vaccine preventable disease. As such, parents are reminded to ensure that all children, and in particular, very young children, have received their full course of vaccinations. This disease spreads like the common flu and can be prevented by being adequately immunized, by observing flu hygiene measures such as covering coughs, frequent hand washing, and by limiting contact with other persons when ill.
Adults who have not received the DPT vaccine can also get infected, but the disease is usually milder in teens and adults. However, an infected teen or adult can spread the disease to younger children who have not been fully immunized.
In an effort to ensure that a full blown outbreak of whooping cough is prevented, the Ministry of Health says it will launch an intensified ‘immunization drive’ to capture and protect all children who may have not have been immunized.
To reduce the risk of a further spread of the disease the Ministry has embarked on an active search by Community Health teams for persons, particularly children less than five years of age, who have not received the required vaccination coverage.
The Ministry has also expanded vaccination services to the effect that walk-ins can be immunized at Wellness Centres daily, rather than only at once weekly vaccination clinics.
Persons with whooping cough can be treated successfully with antibiotics. These antibiotics are available at all health facilities in St. Lucia.
The Ministry of Health has been in communication with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) as well as the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which are assisting them in their response to the disease.
According to the Ministry, Whooping Cough is a vaccine preventable disease which if untreated, can lead to severe outcomes, especially in young children. Health officials say that children who are ill should be brought to the nearest health facility for treatment. Parents are advised to ensure that children are fully vaccinated in order to decrease the child’s risk of contracting this disease.