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News Release

Whooping cough on the rise

Jul 12, 2012
Cases of pertussis (whooping cough) have been cropping up across Simcoe and Muskoka at higher than normal rates, and in response the health unit is urging the public to seek vaccines or booster shots if they are not immunized.

SIMCOE MUSKOKA – Cases of pertussis (whooping cough) have been cropping up across Simcoe and Muskoka at higher than normal rates, and in response the health unit is urging the public to seek vaccines or booster shots if they are not immunized.

Since January there have been nine cases of the disease in Simcoe and Muskoka; in the last three months, three infants under five months of age have been afflicted. It is also possible there are more cases in the community, as the disease often goes undiagnosed.

“The fact that some very young babies have come down with the disease is of particular concern,” said Simcoe Muskoka Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Colin Lee. “Infants under the age of 1 are at high risk because they have not yet received all the necessary whooping cough immunizations. They can become very seriously ill; in fact, it can be life threatening.”

Adults and adolescents who are not up to date with their pertussis immunizations are frequently responsible for the spread of pertussis to infants, Dr. Lee added.

A provincially declared outbreak of whooping cough has been in place since January, although the health unit’s investigation has not linked local cases to other areas where it has been present.

The local cases indicate Simcoe Muskoka is in the midst of one of its periodic increases this year. Pertussis has historically followed a cycle, peaking every four to six years, but has gradually become more common across the province since the early 1990s.

Under-vaccinated communities have contributed to the rise, as has the fact that protection from the vaccine for pertussis tends to wane after a number of years.

More effective vaccines and a new booster for adults, given once in an adult’s life, could reverse the trend, but only if enough people take advantage of it, Dr. Lee said.

Whooping cough or pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection. It begins with a mild congestion of the lungs but develops into violent coughing spells often followed by vomiting. In young children the cough is often followed by a whooping gasp. Fever is not always present and when it is, it is mild. Whooping cough typically lasts from six to 10 weeks and can be treated with antibiotics.

Parents who suspect their child has whopping cough should contact their family health care provider. The health unit will continue to monitor cases in the region.

For more information about pertussis and the vaccine, contact Your Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or visit the website www.simcoemuskokahealth.org.

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