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Pertussis outbreak expands in South, Central Zones

Posted on 6 April 2023 by Prairie Post

An outbreak of pertussis (Whooping Cough) declared Jan. 26, 2023 in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS) has continued to grow. There are now 114 identified cases, including a small number in Central Zone.

The majority of cases have been children under age 18 years, with 72 per cent being between one and nine years old. During the course of this outbreak five children have required hospitalization.

There have been four cases in total in Willingdon and Red Deer in the Central Zone.

The remainder of cases are in South Zone, impacting the communities of the County of Lethbridge, Coaldale, Taber, Vauxhall, Grassy Lake, Bow Island, County of Forty Mile, Seven Persons, and Fort Macleod.

Many of these communities have significantly low childhood immunization rates and there is evidence of transmission within households, community events and gatherings and at some schools. AHS is issuing a reminder to all people of the importance of immunization, particularly in small children, to prevent further illness.

Pertussis is a bacterial infection that causes severe and prolonged coughing that lasts for weeks. It can impact people of all ages but infants one year and younger are at greatest risk of serious complications, including pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and death.

Pertussis illness starts with a runny nose, sneezing, fever, and mild cough. Typically, over the duration of 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.

Immunization is the best method to protect against and limit the spread of pertussis, along with regular hand washing and remembering not to share drinks, food, or cutlery. Pertussis immunization is safe and effective against preventing severe illness. In Alberta, it is free for all children less than 18 years of age, people who are in the third trimester of pregnancy (27 weeks), and adults who have not had a tetanus booster in the past 10 years.

All Alberta residents are reminded to stay up to date on their immunizations. Individuals uncertain of their child’s or their own immunization history can contact their local community health centre or public health office. See Alberta’s Routine Childhood Immunization schedule for more information.   

If an individual thinks they may be sick with pertussis, they should stay home and call a family physician or Health Link at 811, before seeking medical care. People with confirmed pertussis should stay home until five days of treatment with appropriate antibiotics have been completed.

Additional information on pertussis and immunizations can be found online at the following links:

·       Whooping Cough (Pertussis) (alberta.ca)  

·       Pertussis (Whooping Cough) | AHS Immunization (immunizealberta.ca) Immunization and routine immunization schedule | Alberta.ca

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