By Sarwell Meniano

PREVENTION. The Department of Health (DOH) campaign material to fight pertussis. The DOH regional office in Eastern Visayas has asked local health offices to heighten surveillance and monitoring against pertussis, with 31 cases of this highly contagious respiratory tract infection in the region. (Photo courtesy of DOH)

TACLOBAN CITY – At least 31 cases of pertussis have been recorded in Eastern Visayas this year, prompting the Department of Health (DOH) regional office here to heighten its surveillance and monitoring against this highly contagious respiratory tract infection.

Of the total, one was a confirmed case based on a laboratory test, and the rest are still awaiting confirmation from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Jean Marie Egargo, DOH Eastern Visayas assistant regional director, said the confirmed case is a three-month-old boy from Pastrana, Leyte, who has already recovered.

The suspected cases include 18 from Leyte province, four from Tacloban City, six from Eastern Samar, and two from Southern Leyte.

“Most of the suspected cases, or 25 of them, are not vaccinated against pertussis. Vaccination is safe and effective against the infection,” Egardo said.

Boyd Roderick Cerro, chief of the DOH regional epidemiology and surveillance unit, said that of the 31 cases, only one is an adult (27 years old), the rest are minors, and most of them are under one year old.

“Young children are highly vulnerable to this infection. They can catch whooping cough from their parents, adult caregivers, or other children,” Cerro said.

Pentavalent vaccines will be available in rural health units by June.

“Even if we don’t have stocks of vaccines now, we can still combat the infection since there are available medicines in our health facilities,” said Chiradee Claridad, regional coordinator of the DOH national immunization program.

The DPT (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccination administered to children as part of their primary routine immunization helps prevent the possibility of severe pertussis.

Infants as young as six weeks may already be given this vaccine for free at government health centers.

Pertussis is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, resulting in a highly contagious respiratory infection that is transmitted through person-to-person respiratory droplets or contact with airborne droplets.

Symptoms include a persistent cough that lasts for two or more weeks, a mild fever, and a runny nose. (PNA)