No whooping matter

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Many people returning from their Holy Week break or first summer vacation are regretting their return to the work place. Some friends have shared that their office felt more like an “infirmary” or a clinic than an office, with a number of officemates showing up even when they were clearly sick or under the weather.

I don’t know if it’s a defensive mechanism or an act of denial, but folks immediately say they just have a cough and a slight fever or at the most they have the flu. I noticed that the other “C” word, meaning COVID, is frowned upon as well as any suggestion to get tested. Some people even view the wearing of a face mask as a sign of illness and not as a health and safety precaution as well as being considerate of others.

The good news is that the vaccination programs against COVID has stopped the outbreak of COVID or minimized its effects so much that it can now be managed at home with the typical fluids and bed rest routine. The bad news is that after COVID or the flu, we now have another disease that has been declared as a health concern.

I refer to the “whooping cough” which many people ignorantly treat as a minor ailment that affects children. This very cavalier attitude towards such a serious disease or infection is the result of our overall attitude that a cough is nothing serious.

I suppose that mindset is what develops when “cough” syrup is pushed, promoted or advertised more than anything we really need in the kitchen. There was a time when cooking oil and others got a lot of air time on radio and TV, but nowadays, the competition and advertising for cough syrups and remedies is so strong some brands even put down generics or herbal based cough syrup.

As a result, Filipinos now assume any cough is just a cough. They could have TB but it’s just a cough until a fever sets in or blood spots show up. It’s just a cough until blood tests indicate something strange and further tests indicate leukemia. It’s just a cough until you can barely breathe and then die from asthma complications. Maybe it’s time for legislators and health officials to rethink prescriptions for cough medicines.

Whooping cough is not “just a cough.” Please read the health advisory from the Philippine College of Physicians that Dr. Rontgene Solante shared with me this Easter Sunday. This is a shortened version:

Philippine College of Physicians Position Statement on the Current Pertussis Outbreak in the Philippines

The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) is deeply concerned with the recent increase in pertussis cases, commonly known as whooping cough, in the Philippines. In the first 10 weeks of this year, the Department of Health (DOH) has reported over 500 cases with 40 fatalities, and the declaration of outbreaks in Quezon City, Pasig City, Iloilo City and Cavite.

1. Pertussis is an acute respiratory infection caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. The infection poses a significant threat particularly among infants and young children who are at risk of severe symptoms and life-threatening complications and outcome. While teens and adults may experience milder symptoms, there is a risk of severe illness, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions and the unvaccinated elderly population.

2. The PCP fully supports the DOH’s call in promoting enhanced vaccination campaigns nationwide to increase vaccination coverage and protection of all infants and children to vaccine preventable diseases.  We urge all stakeholders, health care providers, local government units, and community leaders to collaborate in preventing the spread of pertussis and other vaccine preventable infections including measles, diphtheria, influenza and pneumonia.

3. The PCP emphasizes the critical role of vaccination as the most effective method for preventing outbreak. PCP highly recommends getting a single Tdap vaccine for:

3.1 Infants and children

• Three-dose primary immunization series with DTaP recommended at ages 1 ½ , 2 ½ , and 3 ½ months, plus booster of  one dose at 12-18 months and another booster dose between 4 to 6 years old.

3.2 Adolescents

• Adolescents who have completed the recommended childhood Tdap series should receive a single Tdap booster, recommended between 9 to 18 years old.

3.3 Adults

• Adults aged 19 to 64 years should receive a single Tdap booster in lieu of 1 Tdap booster

• Adults aged 65 and older who have not previously received a Tdap booster should receive one booster dose, particularly if contact with infants is anticipated.

• The Tdap vaccine is strongly suggested for pregnant women of all ages, ideally in the third trimester (between 27 and 36 weeks) of each pregnancy. For those who are particularly susceptible or have not been vaccinated previously, the Tdap vaccine may also be administered during the first trimester.

Studies have consistently shown that pertussis vaccine (Tdap) significantly decreases the incidence of pertussis by over 92 percent and 97 percent in reducing mortality rates. In fully vaccinated individuals the symptoms tend to be less severe, with a reduced likelihood of experiencing prolonged coughing spells, apnea and cyanosis. Extensive safety evaluations have confirmed that Tdap vaccines are safe for use in children and adults, pregnant women and seniors over the age of 65, with no unexpected safety concerns reported.

4. The PCP urges parents and caregivers to be vigilant for symptoms of pertussis – cough, colds, fever – and to seek prompt medical attention.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to improving patient outcomes and reducing transmission.

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E-mail: [email protected]

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