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Whooping cough cases rise to 200 in Portugal

Whooping cough cases rise to 200 in Portugal

Portugal recorded 200 cases of whooping cough in the first four months of 2024, while it recorded 22 cases during the entire previous year, the Directorate General of Health (DGS) revealed.

There has also been an increase in whooping cough cases across Europe.

Between the beginning of 2023 and April of this year, 10 times more cases of the disease were recorded in the countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA – plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) than in 2022 and 2021. The European Health Agency report issued today indicates.

The study by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) indicates almost 60,000 cases in the EU/EEA in that period, 25,130 in 2023 and 32,037 between January and March this year.

The DGS states that “the majority of confirmed cases [de tosse convulsa] It occurred in pediatric age (86%), especially in children aged 10 to 13 years (21%) and under 1 year of age (20%).

According to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, patients most at risk are children younger than six months old, those who are unvaccinated or only partially immunized, and “the majority of hospitalizations and deaths associated” with the disease occur “in this vulnerable age group.”

In addition, older adults and people with existing health problems are more likely to become seriously ill and be hospitalized.

“During 2023-24, children (under one year) were the group with the highest infection rate in 17 EU/EEA countries, while in a further six countries it was 10-19 year olds (.. .) Most of the deaths occurred among children.”

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The European Agency notes in a statement that whooping cough remains a public health problem, as the disease “is endemic in the EU/EEA and worldwide and causes major epidemics every three to five years, even in countries with high infection rates.” “. Vaccination coverage”, as in Portugal.

The General Directorate of Public Security said that in 2023, “vaccination coverage with the fifth dose of the combination vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis reached 95%, and it is estimated that 85% of eligible pregnant women will be vaccinated.”

“The increase in the number of pertussis cases across Europe shows the need to be vigilant. It is a serious disease, especially in children,” says the European Commissioner for Health, citing a statement by the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stella Kyriakides reminded that there are “safe and effective vaccines” to prevent the disease and that “vaccination is the main tool to help save lives and prevent the disease from spreading further.”

According to the report, the increase in pertussis cases, which occurred after some years of limited spread of the disease in the EU/EEA, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, may be related to a series of factors, such as the expected epidemic peak, unvaccinated individuals or Those without up-to-date vaccinations and decreased immunity and natural boost in the general population during an epidemic.

The European Health Agency recommends that countries strengthen vaccination programs and maintain high vaccination coverage.

Moreover, he adds, immunization against whooping cough during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy is highly effective in preventing illness and death among newborns.

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Most EU/EEA countries now recommend this immunization for mothers in addition to the routine vaccination program for children.

The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention also calls for increasing “health workers' awareness of the epidemiological situation of whooping cough in their geographical area” and knowledge about the disease, and continuing “pertussis surveillance”, as well as ensuring capacity for early detection and diagnosis. Response and control of disease outbreaks.

“Information about whooping cough should highlight that it is a highly contagious disease and that it is essential to protect children,” the study says.

The Directorate General of Health says it maintains “permanent monitoring of the national and international epidemiological situation, adapting its measures to the risks to which the Portuguese population is exposed,” adding that at the beginning of May it “sent an alert to the ULS [Unidades Locais de Saúde]And private and social sector hospitals and health authorities.”

Among the public health measures that will be implemented, the General Directorate of Public Security called for “testing for possible or likely cases of whooping cough, based on nasopharyngeal secretions,” warning of “the necessity of vaccinating all pregnant women who meet the eligibility criteria.”

Whooping cough is transmitted through droplets of saliva expelled by sneezing or coughing and through contact with objects containing the patient's secretions. The period of infection is most severe in the first week in which symptoms appear.

Source: Lusa