Alberta: Pertussis increases in South Zone prompts calls for vaccination
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is reminding the public of the importance of immunization in light of increases in the number of cases of whooping cough (pertussis) confirmed in the South Zone.
A bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that lasts for weeks, pertussis can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death. Infants one year of age and younger are at greatest risk for these serious complications. In 2012, an infant in South Zone contracted pertussis and died.
Of the 24 cases of pertussis confirmed in the South Zone in 2016 to date, one case has required hospitalization. There were 53 confirmed cases in the South Zone last year.
Whooping cough starts as a cold with runny nose, sneezing, fever of up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius), and mild cough. The cough becomes more severe with repetitive coughing spells followed by a whooping sound when the child breathes in, and some vomiting. Older children and adults may experience milder symptoms, such as a prolonged cough and no whoop. Pertussis can be treated most successfully if caught early; however, immunization can safely prevent disease and, even if it does occur, reduce symptoms and spread of the disease.
In Alberta, pertussis immunizations are offered – free of charge – through Alberta’s routine childhood immunization program. A series of doses is recommended, starting at two months of age, and again at four, six and 18 months; at four to six years; and again in Grade 9. Following this schedule ensures protection is up-to-date.
As infants are at high risk, women in their third trimester of pregnancy who have not previously received a dose of this vaccine are encouraged to be immunized to protect themselves and their newborn infants.