Lack of immunizations causing ‘exponential’ increase of whooping cough in southern Alberta

Vaccine used to treat whooping cough among other infections in the fetus of pregnant women. Alexa MacLean / Global News

A whooping cough outbreak in southern Alberta is growing at a rapid pace, according to the latest statistics from Alberta Health Services.

The outbreak was first declared on June 5, after 17 cases of the disease were detected in the southwest part of the province.

As of Monday, the South Zone had 69 cases of whooping cough, 58 of them related to the outbreak. In total, Alberta was dealing with 208 cases.

“There are many individuals who have been impacted by this, and many, many more who’ve been exposed and are at risk,” said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, a medical officer of health for AHS South zone.

Suttorp said there is one main factor contributing to the large number of cases the area: a lack of vaccinations.

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“Eighty-eight per cent of our 58 confirmed confirmed cases linked to this current outbreak have not had immunization,” Suttorp said. “If there is a community where everybody is immunized with the exception of maybe a couple of infants, we would never see numbers take off at this rate. We would never see such a rapidly increasing size and expansion of an outbreak.”

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She also said because the disease has a spectrum of illness, there are many more cases that have yet to be reported.

WATCH: Colin Busby from the C.D Howe Institute explains a study that finds hesitant and complacent parents make up the majority of those not vaccinating their kids.

Click to play video: 'Changing minds on kids and vaccinations'
Changing minds on kids and vaccinations

Suttorp said the health agency is making sure the public is aware of the outbreak, as well as giving people the opportunity to review immunization records to make sure everything is up to date. Vaccinations are also being offered to pregnant women who are in their third trimester, to help keep both the mother and baby protected.

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Whooping cough is a respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

AHS offers scheduled vaccinations for all children at age two months, four months, six months, 18 months, four years and again in Grade 9. Suttorp said the vaccination is also available for adults, who often have a waning immunity and can spread the disease to more vulnerable people.

Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of the disease is asked to contact Health Link at 8-1-1.




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