Whooping cough cases jump to 304 amid south zone outbreak

Health officials advise immunization is the best protection against whooping cough. Alexa MacLean / Global News

Alberta Health Services says there have now been 304 cases of whooping cough in the province in 2017, with 129 cases now connected to an outbreak in the south zone.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection which can be very serious for young children. In infants, the illness can be fatal.

An outbreak was declared on June 7 after 17 cases were found in communities with low immunization rates.

Click here to see the latest information on whooping cough cases in Alberta

“With this number of cases and this rapid doubling of cases, we expect more out there,” AHS south zone medical officer of health Dr. Vivien Suttorp said in a past interview. “We’re going to be in this outbreak for several months.”

READ MORE: Whooping cough outbreak declared across part of Southern Alberta 

The outbreak was initially contained to the western part of the AHS south zone and was limited to the communities around Lethbridge, Coaldale and Fort Macleod. Cases have since have been detected across southern Alberta, including Medicine Hat.

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Suttorp said the outbreak shifted beyond areas with low immunization rates within 10 days and officials are now seeing cases among people who’ve been partially and fully vaccinated.

No outbreaks have been declared in Alberta’s four other zones, but AHS’ most recent data shows 20 cases in Calgary, 29 in Edmonton and 90 in the province’s central zone and 13 in the north zone (down from 15 last week following lab confirmation / case reviews).

Watch below from June 30: Cases of whooping cough are spreading quickly across southern Alberta and even fully vaccinated children could be at risk. Heather Yourex-West explains why.

Click to play video: 'Travelling to southern Alberta this week? Beware of whooping cough'
Travelling to southern Alberta this week? Beware of whooping cough

According to AHS, immunization is the best protection against whooping cough. The vaccine is part of Alberta’s routine childhood immunization schedule, is covered by Alberta Health and can be accessed through community health centres or public health offices. Doses of the DTaP vaccine are recommended for all children at age two months, four months, six months, 18 months, between four and six years and again in Grade 9.

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Adults are urged to get a booster at some point and it’s recommended pregnant women get the vaccine during their third trimester.

Symptoms of whooping cough are initially similar to a cold and include runny nose, sneezing, fever and a mild cough. The cough progresses over the course of about a week to something more severe and can be followed with what sounds like a “whooping” noise when inhaling. The cough may last for two months or more. Vomiting after a coughing spell is also common.

Anyone who suspects they or a family member may be sick with whooping cough should stay at home and call Health Link at 811 before seeking medical care.

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