The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has confirmed two new cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis, engendered by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, is predominantly spread through droplets produced by coughing or sneezing.

The identification of these two cases in Villingili, Gaafu Alifu Atoll, which tested positive on 27 and 31 January, increases the total count of Pertussis cases in the Maldives to five. The disease, previously under control in the Maldives, was initially detected in three children.

In response to the escalating situation, the HPA has instituted a specialised task force at the Gaafu Alifu Atoll Hospital to contain the transmission of the disease and launched a comprehensive screening programme. 177 contacts have been identified thus far under the programme, with 25 exhibiting symptoms of the disease. An additional 45 individuals have been tested due to symptomatic presentation, and two have been classified as high-risk contacts, according to the HPA.

Public health measures initiated by the HPA in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) encompass contact tracing, health screenings, and the administration of prophylactic antibiotics. The HPA is presently engaged in the identification of 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 presenting symptoms of the disease are receiving medical attention and are being tested for pertussis, as per a statement released earlier by the HPA.

Pertussis typically manifests with symptoms akin to 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. However, vaccinated individuals who contract the disease will not experience severe effects, according to the HPA.

The greatest threat from pertussis is posed 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.