No pertussis outbreak declared yet amid 'alarming' surge

No pertussis outbreak declared yet amid 'alarming' surge

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, the head of the City Health Department, addressed concerns during a virtual press conference held on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 after reports said that the city leads in the number of confirmed cases, as well as deaths in the region due to whooping cough.

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, or in other words, no clusters of cases, but we have an increasing number of cases, which means it's not yet at the level of an epidemic or outbreak)

Villa would describe the recent surge of cases as sporadic or in Cebuano she described it as "pat-ak pat-ak pa."

Related story: Iloilo City declares pertussis outbreak, eyes state of calamity

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

Dr. Eugenia Mercedes Cañal, regional epidemiologist of the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH) 7, said last Tuesday, March 26, it is the local government unit (LGU) that is authorized to declare a disease outbreak within its locality.

She explained that LGUs possess the logistics, funding, and manpower to suppress the spread of diseases.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough, or as Villa mentioned, called "saguysoy nga ubo" in Cebuano, is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and poses a grave risk, particularly to unvaccinated infants.

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

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

Villa said that 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, 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 that the three recorded deaths were a one-month-old infant from Barangay Sawang Calero last January 31, a 16-day-old infant from Barangay Talamban last February 27, and a two-month-old infant from Barangay Tejero last February 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 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 added that there are currently 24 "clinically confirmed" cases awaiting confirmation from laboratory tests and, thus, also considered under the suspected cases category.

Meanwhile, Villa also 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; three cases, with one laboratory confirmed, and one death in 2023.

Cañal said that 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 mentioned that 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 influenza 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 clarified that the vaccine is free of charge and can be availed 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 mentioned that more vials are expected to arrive from the DOH in the coming months.

A national media outlet reported on Tuesday that 3 million vaccine doses against whooping cough infection are arriving in the Philippines soon, which will be distributed to LGUs across the country. (KJF)


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