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Wednesday, 21 September 2022 15:28

Clinicians urged to be on alert as SA sees an increase in whooping cough cases.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

South Africa has recorded an upsurge in the number of pertussis cases, commonly known as "whooping cough", acccording to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

NICD says the country saw very few pertussis cases reported through the notifiable medical conditions (NMC) surveillance system in the past two years.

Data show that only 169 pertussis cases were reported in 2020 and 27 in 2021, while 147 cases have been detected from the beginning of 2022 to 15 September.

"This is likely as a result of decreased transmission related to non-pharmaceutical interventions to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2," the NICD explained on Wednesday.

In addition, the national public health institution saw a steady rise in the number of cases reported since May, 23 of which were logged on July, 33 in August and 53 in September.

Of the 147 cases, 77% of the cases were children younger than five years old, with 79% being under three months.

The majority of infections were found in the Western Cape.

"In July and August 2022, the cases reported were evenly distributed across provinces and in keeping with numbers reported before COVID-19, while in September 2022, the majority of cases were reported from Western Cape and numbers higher than those reported from this province pre-COVID-19."

Of the 38 cases reported from the Western Cape in September, 89% were observed in children younger than five years old and 74% were infants younger than three months.

"Of the 34 children aged younger than five years, only 26 have vaccination statuses, of which 65% were up to date for age with vaccination," the NICD said.

Pertussis symptoms may vary from person to person. However, initial signs and symptoms are similar to the common cold and may include nasal congestion, runny nose, mild sore throat, mild dry cough and minimal or no fever.

"Days later, the cough can become more severe and is characterised by episodes of paroxysms, followed by a whooping sound and/or vomiting after coughing."

Pertussis, according to the NICD, is a vaccine-preventable disease caused by Bordetella pertussis and is a notifiable medical condition, according to the National Health Act, 2003 (Act No. 61 of 2003).

The institute said immunity following vaccination is thought to last for five to six years.

Episodic increases in pertussis cases occur in vaccinated populations every three to five years.

The NICD has advised clinicians to be on the alert for cases, conduct diagnostic testing where appropriate, report, notify and prescribe post-exposure prophylaxis to close and high-risk contacts of suspected or confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, the parents and guardians with children less than five years of age are encouraged to ensure that children are up to date with vaccination and to seek medical help early especially for the very young where the illness may be severe.