The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has confirmed the detection of three cases of pertussis, colloquially known as whooping cough, on Villingili Island, Gaafu Alifu Atoll. This highly contagious respiratory disease, caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, is primarily transmitted through droplets generated by coughing or sneezing.

The disease, previously controlled in the Maldives, was identified in three children. In response to this discovery, the HPA, in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and Gaafu Alifu Atoll Hospital, has initiated a series of public health measures, including contact tracing, health screenings, and the administration of prophylactic antibiotics.

The HPA is currently engaged in identifying individuals who had contact with the infected children, with a particular focus on children under the age of one and pregnant women in their sixth month of pregnancy or later. Individuals exhibiting symptoms of the disease are also receiving medical attention and are being tested for the disease, HPA said in a statement.

Pertussis typically presents with symptoms that initially resemble a common cold, such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, red, watery eyes, and a low-grade fever. As the disease progresses, patients may experience an accumulation of mucus in the throat, uncontrollable coughing, a high-pitched intake of breath after coughing, vomiting due to severe coughing, and extreme fatigue.

Despite the provision of Pertussis vaccines to all children in the Maldives, there have been minor reemergences of the disease. Vaccinated individuals who contract the disease will not experience severe effects, according to the HPA.

The greatest threat from pertussis is to children and infants. The HPA has urged parents to ensure that children under seven, who still need to complete the full vaccination doses for pertussis, do so. Vaccines are available at healthcare facilities on all islands.

The prevention of pertussis primarily involves vaccination. Other preventive measures include avoiding contact with infected persons and practicing good hygiene, such as covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and washing your hands often.

This resurgence of pertussis follows the recent reemergence of filariasis, another previously eradicated disease, in the Maldives. The detection of these diseases underscores the existing challenges in disease control and prevention.