Alberta Health Services (AHS) has declared an outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) in the west part of South Zone, and is reminding all South Zone residents of the importance of immunization to prevent further illness.

Boy with whooping cough/Video Screen Shot

Pertussis – a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that lasts for weeks – can impact all age groups; however, infants one year of age and younger are at greatest risk of serious complications, including pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death.

This year, there have been 17 confirmed cases of pertussis in the South Zone, 12 of which have been confirmed in the past week alone and are linked. These 12 linked cases are all within the west part of the South Zone. There were 58 confirmed cases in the South Zone last year.

Immunization is the best method to protect against and limit the spread of pertussis.

In Alberta, vaccine that protects against pertussis is offered to children, free of charge, through Alberta’s Routine Childhood Immunization schedule. Pregnant women in the third trimester (26 weeks) are also offered pertussis-containing vaccine. Offering vaccine to women in the third trimester of pregnancy is an important step in protecting not only the mother but also infants, who are the most vulnerable to developing severe complications from pertussis.

All adults 18 years of age and older are advised to receive one adult dose of pertussis-containing vaccine.

All South Zone residents are reminded to ensure they, and their children, are up to date on their immunizations. Individuals uncertain of their child’s immunization history can contact their local community health centre or public health office to discuss and to book an appointment.

Regardless of age, everyone is reminded not to share water bottles, lipstick, lip balm or drinks.

Stop snoring

Pertussis illness starts with a runny nose, sneezing, fever and mild cough. Typically, over about a week, the cough will become more severe with repetitive coughing spells. In younger children, these coughing spells are usually followed by a “whooping” sound when inhaling. Vomiting following a coughing spell is also common.

Older children and adults may experience milder symptoms, such as a prolonged cough with or without fits or whooping sound; however, in anyone, the cough may last for two months or longer.

People who suspect they, or a family member, may be sick with pertussis should stay at home and call a family physician or Health Link at 811 before seeking medical care.

Individuals with a confirmed case of pertussis should stay home from work, school or childcare until five days of antibiotics have been completed.