The outbreak of whooping cough at Moncton High School has left one parent in “shock,” saying they are surprised people could leave their children unvaccinated despite the risk.
At least five cases of the highly contagious disease were diagnosed at the school, New Brunswick said on Sunday when it informed parents at Moncton High School in an email that they were declaring an outbreak.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, causes a severe cough that can last for months. For infants under the age of one, it can be deadly.
Amanda Jones says her kids have been vaccinated, but she’s still concerned for her 16-year-old daughter, who is a student at Moncton High School.
“In this day in age, it’s more of a shock that people would allow it to progress when you know the potential risks,” she says.
Jones told Global News that they were first told about two cases in the school community on Feb. 15, but she received a call and letter home informing her of the outbreak on Sunday.
“It was only a two-week time period from finding out it was at the school until it’s an outbreak, so it was really quick,” Jones said.
Dr. Yves A. Léger, the Medical Officer of Health in New Brunswick’s east region, says there are 10 to 20 cases reported every year in the region.
Five cases at one school in such a short time period are “definitely concerning,” he said.
Léger says health officials notice increases in pertussis cases every three-to-five years.
“We had a provincial outbreak in 2012, and we had a regional outbreak here in this (east) region in 2015 where we saw an increase of cases,” he said.
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“So this may indicate the beginning of another wave of pertussis activity in the region.”
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Léger says the cases could be contained within the school, but it also could spread to the broader community, adding it’s still in the “early days.”
He recommends that if a parent or their child has a cough, that they see a health-care provider as soon as possible.
“Do not assume that it is merely a cold or the flu,” Léger wrote in the letter distributed to parents.
“A simple test can be done to confirm if you have pertussis or not.”
He recommends wearing a mask when arriving at the clinic and avoiding infants and pregnant women.
Léger says that guardians should mention they are from the Moncton High School community and there have been many cases of whooping cough.
In addition to routine childhood vaccines, an adolescent booster dose of the whooping cough vaccine is required and provided through the province’s immunization clinics in Grade 7.
Léger says that an adult booster dose at age 18 or later is also required.
According to the region’s immunization program statistics, Léger says up to 30 per cent of students have not received their adolescent booster dose.
In an effort to change that, Léger says that the province will be holding an immunization clinic at the school on March 20. In the case of a school closure, the clinic will be held on March 21.
Permission forms are set to be distributed after the school return from March break.
The Medical Officer of Health says that if guardians are unsure whether their child has received their adolescent dose that they should contact their usual provider or reach out to the local public health officer at 506-836-3502 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.