Health officials in Panama are reporting an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough in the Ngäbe Buglé region since mid-December, according to an El Siglo report (computer translated).
To date, 81 confirmed cases have been reported, including nine fatalities in children under two years of age.
According to the head of the Department of Epidemiological Surveillance Ministry of Health, Israel Cedeno, the children died due to complications and were registered in the Loma Yuca sector of the region.
Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that spreads by coughing and sneezing while in close contact with others. Left untreated, it can spread from a single infected person for several weeks, with people in the early stage of illness being the most contagious.
Whooping cough can be a serious illness. Symptoms usually begin appearing as cold symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, sore throat and usually little or no fever. After several days, the cough may become more severe; it may come in spasms or as a series of coughs without a chance to breathe between coughs. There may be a gasp or “whoop” and/or gagging or vomiting at the end of the coughing spasm.
Infants, particularly those less than six months of age, who contract whooping cough are at increased risk of complications, hospitalization and death.
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