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A team of experts from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) are currently in Saint Lucia to provide assistance to the Ministry of Health in helping to reduce the spread of the whooping cough disease.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Merlene Frederick said that the officials are here to investigate and find out if there more cases of the disease on island, or whether there have been more new recorded cases.
“We will also be getting guidance on our immunization strategy to ensure that we capture all children who are not immunized, in order to prevent the situation from escalating,” she explained.
Dr Frederick said based on reports, the whopping cough is occurring in children that have not been vaccinated. The CMO posited that the disease may have entered the island through international travel and may have penetrated small pockets across the island.
She said, “We are part of a global environment where there is lots of travel and between countries and there are countries right now that are also experiencing smaller outbreaks of whopping cough.”
The CMO said parents whose children are fully immunized should not worry, because those children are not likely to be affected by the disease.
“We are making a special appeal to parents’ who have not vaccinated their child or for some reason may have forgotten that there child needs a second or third dose, to make an effort to take them to a health centre,” she said.
So far, 6 suspected cases have been identified and 2 of the 6 cases have been confirmed as having whooping cough. All of the cases have been treated and have done well. Two cases, one child aged 4 weeks old and a second child aged 5 months old have received treatment in hospital.
Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, is a respirator disease caused by a bacteria 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.”