The Department of Health has declared a whooping cough outbreak as 30 confirmed cases have been diagnosed in New Brunswick’s capital region since April.
It’s the second outbreak in the span of only months: in May, a measles outbreak was declared in the Saint John region with more than 10 confirmed cases.
“Some of the experiences we’ve had recently highlight that we always have to remain vigilant about how we can prevent disease and not just respond to disease when it occurs,” explains Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey, regional medical officer of health in Fredericton.
An outbreak of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, has been declared at George Street Middle School after the discovery of five separate cases. Earlier this the week, an emergency immunization clinic was held at the school so students could be vaccinated before summer break.
“It actually spreads quite efficiently in settings like households, in a setting where there are people who aren’t protected,” adds Lamptey.
As the province grapples with two separate public health concerns, the idea of mandatory vaccinations is now at the forefront. The Higgs government, more specifically Education Minister Dominic Cardy, has introduced legislation that would make vaccinations mandatory for all school-aged children who aren’t medically exempt.
“Every day we delay, we’re endangering people. People are getting sick right now,” Cardy explains, saying it’s time for the government to intervene.
“If you have lower vaccination rates, this is your reality. You’ll see diseases that we thought were dead and extinguished coming back and killing our kids, killing our adults and killing our vulnerable seniors.”
However, medical officials say that when the province isn’t in an outbreak situation, there tend to be no cases of whooping cough, one of the diseases Cardy is referencing. As long as immunization schedules are followed, for example, the whooping cough vaccine is given to infants and children, once in adulthood and to women who are pregnant.
“Every two to five years, we get a cycle where we get an outbreak, as there’s a new population of people who’ve been born and not had as many doses or who are maybe coming due for their next dose,” explains Lamptey.
Medical officials are asking anyone showing signs of measles or pertussis to stay home and call 811 as both diseases are highly contagious.