Pertussis patients advised to undergo quarantine - Experts

22 Aug 2023 10:05am
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF

KUALA LUMPUR - Individuals diagnosed with pertussis or whooping cough should be isolated or placed under quarantine to prevent its spread in the community, especially among children.

Universiti Putra Malaysia epidemiologist Prof Madya Dr Malina Osman said children aged below 12 years old are at risk of contracting the disease, and the symptoms are more severe among infants and children under the age of five.

"The risk of contracting the disease is higher among children who have yet to receive or did not receive the pertussis vaccine. Children who have not been vaccinated (but are still healthy) are advised not to be exposed to risky environments for five days and up to 21 days.

"Whooping cough typically takes one to two weeks to develop after a person is exposed to the infection source and has three phases. Initially, the patient will experience fever, followed by persistent cold symptoms and then a severe, recurring cough that makes them difficult to breathe which then leads to a high pitch sound to the coughing,” she told Bernama.

Instead of coughing, she said infants who contract the disease will show signs of weakness and may suddenly turn blue due to breathing problems.

"What happens is, pertussis is caused by bacteria (Bordetella pertussis) that release toxin damaging cells in the respiratory tract. So, when an infection occurs, there will be mucus that cannot be expelled as the cells are damaged.

"Therefore, our body will resort to coughing to discharge the mucus with much difficulty that can lead to vomiting. Children may experience apnea which causes them to suddenly stop breathing and if happens frequently can lead to death,” she said.

She said the disease is transmitted through the droplets that are released into the air generated by coughing and sneezing or through direct contact with nasal fluid, saliva or tears, adding that the toxin released by the bacteria damages lung cells preventing the mucus or lung secretions from being discharged.

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Meanwhile, Prof Madya Ts Dr Shamsul Bahari Shamsudin, who is an expert in safety and health risks management from Universiti Malaysia Sabah said, besides using quarantine as a method to curb the spread of the disease, another approach that can be used is allowing those who are infected to work from home.

He said the method should be adopted at the industry level when workers are found to have exhibited respiratory tract symptoms to prevent the spread of the disease, especially to individuals with low immunity, stressing that employers should treat such a disease seriously.

"Any respiratory illness should be taken seriously. Those who feel unwell, have a fever, cough, flu, or exhibit symptoms related to pertussis should avoid having direct contact with other individuals,” he said.

He said, caregivers, especially those who are tending to children with pertussis should also be placed under quarantine or allowed to work from home because they are also exposed to the bacteria.

He also proposed that the Ministry of Health optimises the use of the MySejahtera application in sharing information about the disease with the people, such as the current infection cases, the risk of infection transmission, high-risk areas and pertussis vaccination status, among other things.

"Activate all monitoring methods and implement SOP (standard operating procedures) in the affected areas,” he added.

On Saturday, the Pahang State Health Department confirmed that a pertussis case has been reported in Kampung Bahagia, Rompin involving a mother and her two children. - BERNAMA