Alberta Health Services (AHS) has declared a whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak in the AHS North Zone, which The Lakeland falls in, due to a sustained increase in the number of confirmed cases.
AHS is encouraging all North Zone residents to be immunized against pertussis. Immunization is available by appointment at public health and community health centres across the zone.
Pertussis is a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that lasts for weeks and can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death. Infants six months of age and younger are at greatest risk for these serious complications.
This year, 182 cases of pertussis have been confirmed in the North Zone, three of which have required hospitalization. About half of all confirmed pertussis cases in Alberta this year are from the North Zone.
Pertussis can be treated if caught early; however, immunization can safely prevent disease and, even if disease does occur, reduce the severity and spread.
In Alberta, pertussis immunization is offered free of charge through Alberta’s routine childhood immunization program. A series of doses is recommended starting at two months of age; again at four, six and 18 months; at four to six years; and again in Grade 9. Following this schedule ensures protection is complete and up-to-date. Albertans who have not received a dose of pertussis vaccine since turning 18 years of age are also eligible to receive a single additional dose in adulthood. All Albertans can prevent illness and the spread of disease by following the recommended immunization schedule.
AHS is urging immunization for the following high-risk North Zone residents:
- Infants and preschool-aged children who are not up-to-date on immunizations.
- Caregivers and close contacts of infants, such as parents, grandparents, nannies and child care staff (e.g. daycare centres and family day homes).
- Health care workers.
- Women who are at least, or greater than, 26 weeks pregnant. (Immunizing women at or after 26 weeks of pregnancy is safe and increases protection for newborn infants by minimizing risk of infection in those around them and giving them antibodies transferred during pregnancy).
Individuals uncertain of their own, or their child’s, immunization history can contact their local public health or community health centre to discuss.
Anyone who suspects 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. When prescribed treatment, cases should stay home from work, school or child care until five days of antibiotics have been completed.