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Oct 4, 2012

Healthy Living examines prevention of whopping cough

The Ministry of health announced that recently suspected cases of whooping cough or Pertussis were detected in Springfield, Cayo where a close knit Mennonite community has settled.  The fear is that the cough is contagious and persons especially children who have not been vaccinated are exposed. This week, Healthy Living sat one on one with a pediatrician who explains the illness, how to recognize and how to prevent it.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

This uncontrollable and violent cough that leaves the affected person out of breath leading to the loud gasp for air is synonymous of the respiratory disease: pertussis or whooping cough. It is a highly contagious disease. Pediatrician Dr Cecilio Eck explains how pertussis would typically spread.


Dr. Cecilio Eck, Pediatrician

Cecilio Eck

“Whooping cough is an upper respiratory tract infection and it can spread to the lower respiratory track by a germ, bacteria called a Bordetella pertussis. It is transmitted through droplet infections so if you cough or sneeze in the air or on surfaces where you touch it and it gets in the body then there’s an incubation period of three to five days and after that the coughing starts. What would happen is that the child or the adult would cough, cough, cough, cough and at the end of the cough, to get a breath in they take a deep breath and its sounds like a “whoop.”


It is one of several conditions which are included in our vaccination schedule in Belize; yet recently there have been suspected cases in Cayo. Dr. Eck sheds some light on why this may occur.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“Now remember that vaccines are not a one hundred percent effective therefore with this one the study shows that it is effective eighty-five to ninety-six percent coverage if you get the first series. It should be given at two months, four months, and six months. The rest of the territories give it at eighteen months and a booster in Belize is given at four to six years.”


It is also recommended that after ten years you should get a booster once again; although this is not commonly practiced. The most vulnerable groups are infants and young children and can be fatal for babies under one. According to Dr. Eck, even a few cases would be very worrisome.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“It is very worrisome because it is very, very, very contagious and the more people that get it the more likelihood that there’ll be one who dies from it. The kids who are most likely to be affected are those who have not completed their vaccination course and therefore are not fully immunized and secondly some adults who have some concomitant illness like asthma or other illnesses.”


If you live in a community where there are suspected cases of whooping cough; then pay close attention to any flu like symptom. If severe coughing or difficulty breathing occur then you should report to the nearest health facility.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“Initially it would look like a cough and a cold, a simple cough and a cold then it doesn’t go away and it gets progressively worse, coughing would become very persistent. According to literature, you cough up to twenty times per day; they would cough in bursts so in between the child looks well. But when the episode comes on, they cough, cough, cough and they may not have the “whoop,” but they per orbital cyanosis or blueness around the mouth; the kids may actually faint or start to fit. This is the dangerous part of the illness because not enough oxygen reaches the brain when they start to cough.”


The standard treatment for pertussis is antibiotics treatment and if treated early can be very successful.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“What is recommended; if coughing tarts up especially in the part of the country where it seems to be occurring; they should immediately start the antibiotics. But simple home remedies usually work, fever medicine, a lot of fluids, keeps the humidity high in the room and some people may plug in the humidifier. In Belize, I call it the ‘granny rules’ keep them warm, keep them cloaked up, no fan no ac anything too cold will trigger the coughing bouts.”


It is important to note that whooping cough can affect people of any ages so be sure that your full complement of vaccinations has been completed.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“In Belize we are pretty good at it; we have to thank the ministry of health for that. It’s one of the few places that they have your address that if you miss a shot they actually go looking for you and physically knock on your door and say we need this kid to come and complete his immunization records. Usually these kids that have it are in communities where they are non-compliant with immunization and certainly there still a big outbreak of pertusis in California as we speak and so in that group we’d have to include travelers.”


The best way to protect yourself or children from whooping cough is immunization.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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