April 8, 2014 9:46 pm

Whooping cough outbreak declared in Southern Alberta

WATCH: For one mother, the respiratory infection almost killed her baby. Our Kimberly Tams sat down with her to hear her story.

LETHBRIDGE – Health officials are urging southern Albertans to ensure they’re immunized as they deal with a whooping cough outbreak in the region.

34 cases of the infectious disease have been confirmed in the last three months for Lethbridge, surrounding areas and extending to Medicine Hat.

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Medically known as pertussis, whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that gets the name from the inhale sound often made during a coughing fit.

Chief medical officer for Alberta Health Services south zone, Dr. Vivien Suttorp, says the best way to ensure you’re protected is through vaccination.

“It’s very contagious.  So individuals who haven’t been immunized within a household for example, 90 per cent of individuals in that household will get the disease.  Even with schools, 50 to 80 per cent of kids within that school will get the disease as well,” she adds.

Lethbridge’s last outbreak occurred in June, 2012 and lead to the death of one infant.

Suttorp says due to the area’s low vaccination record, outbreaks are not uncommon and occur every three to five years.

Officials say the disease can affect adults but is especially dangerous for infants.

They are asking everyone anyone who’s been diagnosed with the disease to stay home to avoid spreading the sickness.

Residents are urged to follow the recommended vaccination schedule for infants, children and adults.

Anyone who is unsure of their immunization history can phone Health Link Alberta for more information or to book an appointment.

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