the virus returns to Reunion, call for vigilance and vaccination of infants

the virus returns to Reunion, call for vigilance and vaccination of infants
the virus returns to Reunion, call for vigilance and vaccination of infants

Whooping cough is making a comeback in Reunion. Since the start of the year, seven cases have been recorded compared to only 4 cases over the whole of 2022 and 2023. You should know that a sick person can contaminate up to 17. In Nice, in the south of the ‘Hexagon, a three-week-old infant died from this disease. A resumption of the circulation of the virus against which the Regional Health Agency of Reunion Island recommends vaccination, particularly among very young children (Photo:

One of our Internet users – who alerted us to the recurrence of this illness by her doctor – actually caught whooping cough. “As a symptom I had a fairly frequent cough, without anything else during the first five days.”

“Afterwards I had an asphyxiating cough with vomiting reflex for seven days and then a cough which was no longer asphyxiating but much more frequent with always vomiting and a blocked nose,” she explains.

“In Reunion, 7 cases have already been reported since the start of the year compared to 4 for the whole of 2023 and for 2022,” specifies the Regional Health Agency (ARS).

“Even if the number of cases is increasing compared to previous years, we cannot yet speak at this stage of an increase in whooping cough cases,” adds the health agency.

– A very contagious disease –

“It is a very contagious infectious disease, which is transmitted from person to person, through coughing or sneezing,” explains the ARS.

The clinical expression of this disease varies depending on the person and their age. “In infants less than three months old, it can present in the form of malignant whooping cough (respiratory distress, multiple organ failure)” notes the ARS.

“Whooping cough can be serious, even fatal, in infants who are not yet protected by the vaccine (vaccination must take place at 2 months and 4 months and must be followed by subsequent boosters, including one in adulthood)” , indicates the Regional Health Agency.

In adults, it can present in the form of atypical whooping cough (cough without obvious cause, persistent or worsening beyond a week) or take the form of simple nasopharyngitis.

The incubation period can range from seven days to three weeks. Whooping cough results in a low fever before manifesting itself with a characteristic cough. If the cough is moderate at first, it develops into violent fits. As Ameli Santé points out, coughing fits can cause spasms and breathing becomes complicated.

Patients may have a puffy, red, or bluish face. Some patients also experience vomiting as a result of coughing. In some cases, coughing can also cause the small blood vessels around the eyes to burst.

“At the end of a coughing fit, the patient resumes breathing with a large and long inspiration, accompanied by the emission of a high-pitched sound (called cock crowing). He emits with difficulty a clear and thick sputum”, illustrates the institutional site.

– Vaccination, the only means of protection –

There is a treatment with antibiotics (macrolides”) to be taken in the first three weeks of the evolution of the disease. The latter “makes it possible to quickly reduce contagiousness and to authorize return to the community after five days of treatment (or three days if the patient is treated with azithromycin)”, specifies the Regional Health Agency.

In order to limit the spread of the disease on the island, the best way to protect yourself remains vaccination.

Vaccination has three benefits. It helps prevent catching this very contagious disease.

It allows mothers vaccinated during pregnancy to transmit antibodies and thus protect their infants under six months, at an age when they are not protected or incompletely protected by their own vaccination.

It allows those around newborns to reduce the risk of transmitting whooping cough to infants under six months old, when their mothers were not vaccinated during pregnancy (cocooning).

“As the disease is not immunizing, you can catch whooping cough several times, hence the usefulness of giving the recommended booster shots over the course of your life,” underlines the ARS.

Vaccination against whooping cough is compulsory for all infants born from January 1, 2018, from 2 months of age. It is the potential seriousness of whooping cough in infants that justifies starting vaccinations from the age of 2 months.

Boosters should be given at 11 months, 6 years, and between 11 and 13 years.

Vaccination is recommended for mothers during pregnancy and each pregnancy preferably between the 20th and 36th week after the last period.

It should be considered for people who have not been vaccinated in the last ten years, and in particular for:

– members of the family circle (brothers and sisters, spouse, grandparents, babysitters, etc.) of a pregnant woman, if she was not vaccinated during pregnancy or if she vaccinated less than one month before giving birth;

– the mother who has just given birth if she was not vaccinated during pregnancy, even if she is breastfeeding her child.

In adults, the booster is given at 25 years of age: a dose of combined vaccine containing the whooping cough vaccine (except in the case of vaccination against whooping cough which is less than 5 years old). If this booster was not done at age 25, it can be done anytime between ages 26 and 39.

Certain professions must carry out booster vaccinations against whooping cough such as:

– healthcare workers, including in accommodation establishments for dependent elderly people (EHPAD). Healthcare workers in contact with infants under 6 months old
(working in maternity wards, neonatology and pediatric services) are concerned as a priority;

– early childhood staff including childminders and people who regularly babysit;

– medical and paramedical students.

– Call for vigilance –

Outside our borders, Europe is currently experiencing an upsurge in cases of whooping cough with significant epidemics in Croatia, Denmark and the United Kingdom and significant increases in Belgium, Spain and Germany.

The European monitoring center ECDC published on May 8 a report on whooping cough cases: 25,000 cases in 2023, and already 32,000 cases between January and March 2024.

In France, since the start of 2024, around twenty grouped cases (or clusters) have been reported to Public Health France in eight French regions versus two grouped cases in one and the same region (Ile-de-France) for the whole of 2023.

Whooping cough is not a notifiable disease but cases must be reported to the Regional Health Agency in two specific situations: as part of the reporting of nosocomial infections or during the occurrence of grouped cases (from two cases) whether they are intra-family or in communities.

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