UST firms up disease surveillance to prevent pertussis outbreak

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THERE are no cases of pertussis or whooping cough yet in the University, but the UST Health Service advised Thomasians to be on alert as cases continue to skyrocket.

The Department of Health (DOH) has recorded a 3,000-percent increase in cases of pertussis than last year, with the majority of the patients being children aged five years old and below. Officials admitted that vaccine supply may face a shortage in May.

Dr. Sheryl Dionisio, director of the UST Health Service, said the office will “strengthen disease surveillance” and encourage inoculation to avoid an outbreak of pertussis.

“The UST Health Service will implement measures to effectively control possible infection by strongly encouraging TdaP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster and catch-up vaccination,” she told the Varsitarian.

“We will also strengthen disease surveillance, monitoring and reporting of cases, providing informational videos to increase awareness about pertussis, which are available on the ThOMedSS (Thomasian Online Medical Services and Support) website.”

Pertussis is a respiratory ailment caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, releasing toxins that induce damage and swelling in the airways that may lead to difficulties in breathing, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Typical symptoms include mild cough, runny nose, and low-grade fever, resembling a common cold. However, unlike the common cold, the symptoms can persist for weeks and months.

Pertussis is treated by intaking antibiotics and prevented by taking the TdaP vaccine.

MiMaRoPa recorded 187 cases of pertussis to date, the highest of any region in the country, according to the DOH, followed by the National Capital Region (158), Central Luzon (132), Central Visayas (121) and Western Visayas (72).

Among the reported cases, 79 percent are children under five years old, with 66 percent of them either unvaccinated or with unknown vaccination history. Adults aged 20 and older represent only four percent of the cases.

The Quezon City government officially declared a pertussis outbreak on March 21 as infections reached 23 and fatalities four, predominantly affecting infants aged 22 to 60 days. 

Dionisio offered tips to protect oneself from pertussis.

“Follow good hygiene practices like handwashing and surface disinfection, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and wear a mask for protection against respiratory droplets,” she stressed.

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