Whooping cough outbreak in Kootenay Boundary

By Contributor
February 4th, 2010

Interior Health Authority is taking steps to address an outbreak of pertussis (Whooping Cough), as 19 cases have been diagnosed in the Kootenay Boundary in the last eight weeks.

“This is a higher number of cases of whooping cough than we would normally see”, said Dr. Rob Parker, Interior Health Medical Health Officer. “In December and January of last year there were no pertussis cases, with only three cases in total for the two years prior to this outbreak.”

While all of the reported cases are on the Kootenay side of the region, public health suggests all parents consider immunization.

“I would advise all parents with unimmunized infants and children to seriously consider getting them immunized,” added Dr. Parker. “The modern acellular pertussis vaccine is very safe and effective.”

During this outbreak, infants will be offered their first pertussis vaccination earlier, beginning at six weeks of age and thereafter on an accelerated schedule to provide as much protection as soon as possible.

In the coming days and weeks, public health nursing staff will be undertaking additional efforts to contact parents of unimmunized and under-immunized children to book appointments for immunization to help protect their children from pertussis disease.

Pertussis is a contagious bacterial disease of the lungs and throat that is spread through coughing or sneezing by an infected person. It starts like a common cold, with low-grade fever and a mild cough. Severe coughing spells that often end with a whoop can develop in one to two weeks. Pregnant women in their third trimester and infants under one-year-of-age are at greatest risk of disease. Pertussis is especially serious for infants, and may lead to hospitalization and even death.

Kootenay Boundary has the lowest childhood immunization rate in Interior Health, with only 69 per cent of infants and toddlers being fully immunized with a pertussis-containing vaccine by age two.

To date, all children, except one, who have developed whooping cough during this outbreak have not been immunized. Unimmunized children pose a risk both to themselves and to others, particularly newborns and infants who are too young to be immunized.

Pregnant women in their third trimester and parents of infants that have been exposed to pertussis will be notified by public health with recommendations to see their family doctor for antibiotics to prevent infection. Others who have been exposed should consult their doctor if they develop illness consistent with pertussis. 

Categories: General