PRESS RELEASE – The Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations is currently investigating confirmed and suspected cases of Pertussis or Whooping Cough, a flu like illness in children.
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 are currently admitted and receiving 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.”
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 as such 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 will be launching an intensified ‘Immunization Drive’ to capture and protect all children who may have missed or who may not have been immunized.
With immediate effect the following changes have been made to reduce the risk of further spread of this disease:
– Active search by Community Health teams for persons, particularly children less than 5 year of age, who have not received the required vaccination coverage
– Expanding vaccination services such that walk- ins can be immunized at Wellness Center daily, rather than only at once weekly vaccination clinics.
– Thorough investigation of all suspected and confirmed cases of disease
– Promotion of flu hygiene practices particularly within locations where infants and young children routinely congregate
Persons with Whooping Cough or pertussis 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 us in our response.
Whooping Cough is a vaccine preventable disease which if untreated, can lead to severe outcomes, especially in young children. Ill children 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.
For further information please contact the Chief Medical Officer at 4685308.