Pertussis Cases Increasing Around the World

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by Bordetella pertussis or Bordetella parapertussis bacteria. Pertussis bacteria attach to the cilia (tiny, hair-like extensions) that line part of the upper respiratory system. The bacteria release toxins, which damage the cilia and cause airways to swell.

It spreads easily mainly through droplets produced by coughing and sneezing. The patient is contagious from about 6 days after the start of cold-like symptoms to 3 weeks after the coughing starts.

Symptoms of Pertussis

The first symptoms of Pertussis usually begin around 1 week after the infection.

The most common symptoms are cough, mild fever, runny nose, and colds followed by fits of cough with “whooping” sounds in between. Vomiting after these fits of coughs is also common. Babies may not cough at all.

Instead, they may have apnea (life-threatening pauses in breathing) or struggle in breathing.

In rare cases, it can cause neurological problems like paralysis and blindness. Complications are particularly severe in infants under six months where the infection can develop into pneumonia, seizures and in some cases even death.

Risk Groups of Pertussis

Pertussis can be life-treating for people of all ages especially if they are unvaccinated. However, babies, children under 6 years of age and pregnant women are in the high-risk group and shouldn’t miss out on their vaccinations.

Diagnosis of Pertussis

Doctors diagnose Pertussis by history of typical signs and symptoms, physical exam, blood test and laboratory tests from biological samples.

In the cases of Pertussis, immediate treatment therefore diagnosis tools are vital. Anatolia Geneworks Bosphore B. pertussis/parapertussis Genotyping Kit and Respiratory Pathogens Panel Kits detect and characterise Pertussis pathogens from various biological samples with high accuracy.

Pertussis Cases Around The World

Pertussis has made a dramatic comeback across Europe, Asia, and America in recent months.

A steady decline in vaccine uptake in addition to the resurgence of respiratory diseases following COVID-19 lockdowns have contributed to these increased case numbers, the highest since the mid-1980s.

  • Bulgaria is currently struggling with a worrying increase in this disease which has claimed the lives of two infants this year. More than 500 cases have been reported this year compared to only 4 cases last year, signalling a new potential epidemic.
  • In January and February of 2024 alone, England has reported 1468 cases, compared to just 823 for all of 2023.
  • The Czech Republic has seen over 6300 infections since January with at least 3 deaths of infants.
  • The Netherlands reported more than 3600 cases of Pertussis between January and March 2024, of which 228 were in infants.
  • Spain has reported more than 8200 cases by March, according to a report from health authorities, a large increase compared to the 1200 cases reported in all of 2023.
  • Parts of Asia have also taken the toll of increased Pertussis infections.  In China, 30,000 people have been infected in January 2024. Pertussis cases in the Philippines are also on an upward trend with more than 1500 infections and 50 deaths as of April 13 after the declaration of an outbreak.

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