No outbreak of whooping cough

No outbreak of whooping cough
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DESPITE the recent recording of three deaths of infants attributed to pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, the local health authority in Cebu City has refrained from declaring an outbreak.

Dr. Daisy Villa, head of the City Health Department, addressed concerns during a virtual press conference on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, after reports said the city leads in the number of confirmed cases and deaths due to whooping cough in the Central Visayas region.

She acknowledged the severity of the situation, describing it as “alarming.” However, she emphasized that the focus remains on containing and suppressing the spread of the disease rather than declaring an outbreak.

“Nakita nato nga ang pertussis cases naa na siya since 2017. Kumbaga wala’y cluster of cases, but we have [an] increasing number of cases, meaning pasabot dili pa siya mahog nga epidemic or outbreak,” she said.

(We have observed that pertussis cases have been present since 2017. In other words, there has been no clusters of cases, but we have an increasing number of cases, meaning it’s not yet at the level of an epidemic or outbreak.)

Villa described the recent surge in cases as “pat-ak pat-ak pa” or still sporadic.

In Cebuano, whooping cough is called “saguysoy nga ubo,” Villa said.

Recently, the cities of Quezon and Pasig in Metro Manila, and Iloilo in Western Visayas, declared an outbreak of pertussis in their localities.

Last Tuesday, Dr. Eugenia Mercedes Cañal, regional epidemiologist of the Department of Health (DOH) 7, said it is the local government unit (LGU) that is authorized to declare a disease outbreak within its locality. She explained that this is because LGUs possess the logistics, funding and manpower to suppress the spread of diseases.

Causes, symptoms

Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and poses a grave risk, particularly to unvaccinated infants.

Cañal said the illness is often mistaken for an asthma attack due to its severe hacking cough.

She said pertussis causes a highly contagious respiratory infection, spreading person-to-person through respiratory droplets or contact with contaminated surfaces such as clothing, utensils and furniture.

Villa said aside from fever, common symptoms of whooping cough are having paroxysms or a fit of cough lasting for two weeks, inspiratory whooping and post-tussive vomiting.

Recorded cases

Last Tuesday, the DOH 7 reported that six infants in Central Visayas had succumbed to whooping cough, three of whom were from Cebu City, two from Mandaue City and one from Lapu-Lapu City.

Villa said the three recorded deaths were a one-month-old infant from Barangay Sawang Calero last Jan. 31, a 16-day-old infant from Barangay Talamban last Feb. 27, and a two-month-old infant from Barangay Tejero last Feb. 20.

Additionally, the health agency reported that among the confirmed cases, Cebu City had 13, Mandaue City had four, Lapu-Lapu City had one, Cebu Province had 19, and Bohol had five.

Villa clarified to SunStar Cebu that Cebu City had only 12 cases, and that the 13th identified patient was an infant from Surigao City in Mindanao who provided a Cebu City address when admitted to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center for treatment.

She said there are currently 24 “clinically confirmed” cases awaiting confirmation from laboratory tests, thus, also considered under the suspected cases category.

Meanwhile, Villa revealed the number of pertussis cases the city recorded in the past five years. There were three clinically confirmed cases in 2019 with one death; one case in 2022; two cases in 2021; three cases in 2022; and three cases, with one laboratory confirmed, and one death in 2023.

Cañal said they will conduct confirmation tests on children showing symptoms or suspected of having whooping cough through swab testing.

She added that the samples will be sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila for confirmation.


Villa told SunStar Cebu that there is still an ample supply of vaccines available for parents who wish to get their children vaccinated against whooping cough.

She said there are still 5,000 single-shot vials of the pentavalent DPT-HepB-HiB vaccine, which protects children against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type B.

She added that previously, the DPT vaccine only targeted three diseases, but now it provides protection against five diseases.

Villa explained that the vaccine is administered in three doses, with the first jab given during the baby’s first six weeks, as they still have maternal immunity for respiratory issues during this period.

The health official said the vaccine is free of charge and can be availed of at barangay health centers. She added that in private institutions, each vial is sold for prices ranging from P1,500 to P1,600.

Furthermore, she said more vials are expected to arrive from the DOH in the coming months.

A national media outlet reported on Tuesday that three million vaccine doses against whooping cough infection are soon arriving in the Philippines, and these will be distributed to LGUs across the country. (KJF)


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