An increase in pertussis cases (13 Dec 2022)

An increase in pertussis cases has been reported in South Africa among children younger than five years of age, particularly among infants younger than three months of age. The current increases have mostly been reported in the Western Cape Province.

Pertussis, commonly known as ‘whooping cough’, is a vaccine-preventable disease caused by Bordetella pertussis and is a notifiable medical condition (NMC). Immunity following vaccination lasts for approximately 5-6 years. Episodic increases in pertussis cases occur in vaccinated populations every 3-5 years. Completion of childhood primary series (DTaP) and boosters is important for prevention.

Clinicians are advised to
– be on the alert for cases
– conduct diagnostic testing where appropriate
– notify cases on the NMC app
– prescribe post-exposure prophylaxis to close and high-risk contacts of suspected or confirmed cases
– vaccinate healthcare workers
– encourage pregnant women to vaccinate where possible

Vaccination of healthcare workers against pertussis reduces transmission to vulnerable patients (e.g. neonates) and is recommended where resources are available. Maternal immunisation with acellular pertussis-containing vaccines (Tdap) is effective in preventing severe disease and mortality among young infants before they receive their infant vaccines.

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