Whooping cough outbreak hits South Africa: Dis-Chem urges the public to prioritize vaccination

by Tia

An alarming outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis), a highly contagious respiratory infection, is rising globally, including in South Africa. According to the latest surveillance report from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), South Africa had 50 confirmed cases of whooping cough in January 2024. To combat this outbreak, Dis-Chem is urging the public to take immediate action and prioritise vaccination.

Lizeth Kruger, Dis-Chem Clinic Executive emphasises the importance of vaccination, stating, “Vaccination serves not only as a protective barrier but also as our best defence against the spread of pertussis. Parents, siblings, and caregivers are the silent carriers of this infection, unknowingly passing it to infants. Therefore, widespread vaccination is essential to combat this disease and safeguard everyone.”

She advises expectant mothers to be more vigilant during this outbreak, noting, “While this vaccine-preventable disease can affect people of all ages, pregnant women are at greater risk due to the natural suppression of their immune systems during pregnancy.”

Contracting pertussis during pregnancy poses significant risks to both the mother and the unborn baby. Scientific research shows that pregnant women who become infected are more likely to experience severe illness and complications, including respiratory distress and increased hospitalisation. Moreover, the consequences can be even more serious for infants under one year old, as they may experience pneumonia, brain damage, and, in the most severe cases, death.

“Receiving the Adacel vaccine during 28 to 32 weeks of pregnancy is the best decision expectant mothers can make. This vaccine safeguards individuals aged 10 to 64 against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria in just one shot. We recommend getting this vaccine ideally in the 2nd or 3rd trimester of each pregnancy, even if you’ve been vaccinated before,” says Kruger.

Vaccination during pregnancy is safe and highly effective for both mother and baby. The vaccine transfers antibodies to the unborn baby, protecting them from pertussis during their first weeks of life – before they receive their first vaccines. Considering medical history and pregnancy status, it is recommended to consult healthcare providers before receiving the vaccine.

Whooping cough symptoms begin with a mild cough and runny nose similar to a cold. After one to two weeks, it can lead to severe, prolonged coughing fits, especially at night, with a ‘whooping’ sound when breathing. Thick mucus may be produced, and a high-pitched wheeze might follow. Vomiting from intense coughing can also occur.

Timely identification of pertussis is crucial for protecting public health. Early diagnosis not only saves lives but also substantially improves community health outcomes. Individuals suspecting they’re infected should consult their pharmacist or healthcare provider immediately. Starting antibiotic treatment without delay is most effective in mitigating both the intensity and duration of the illness.

In addition to getting vaccinated, Dis-Chem recommends practicing good hygiene habits such as regular handwashing and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in the bin and if you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. During the final weeks of pregnancy, it’s crucial to avoid close contact with individuals showing symptoms as whooping cough bacteria can spread through airborne droplets. Individuals are also advised to stay informed about symptoms and prevention measures to enable information sharing, raise awareness, and prevent its spread among family, friends, and colleagues.

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!