Alert sounded for whooping cough

Parents are being warned to keep an eye out for whooping cough after five cases in Vernon.

Parents are being warned to keep an eye out for whooping cough after five cases in Vernon.

Of the five cases in the last two weeks, three were at one elementary school.

“We have informed the parents at the school,” said Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi, Interior Health Authority public health officer.

“We cannot call it an outbreak because we have a threshold. An outbreak is when you reach 100 cases and above.”

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is an infection of the airways caused by pertussis bacteria.

“It can be very severe, especially in young children. It can even be deadly,” said Golmohammadi.

According to the Ministry of Health, pertussis can cause pneumonia, seizures and brain damage.

Each year in Canada, one to three deaths occur, mostly in babies less than three months of age who have not been immunized.

Golmohammadi isn’t sure if the individuals with whooping cough in Vernon had been vaccinated.

“Cases among people immunized are far less than those not immunized,” he said.

Pertussis starts like a common cold with symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, mild fever and a mild cough.

Over the next two weeks, the cough gets worse, leading to severe, repeated, and forceful coughing spells that often end with a whooping sound before the next breath. The cough of pertussis can last several months and occurs more often at night. The cough can lead to gagging and difficulty breathing. In babies, pertussis can cause periods of apnea in which their breathing is interrupted.

Babies less than six months old, teenagers, and adults may not make the whooping sound. As a result, anyone that could have been exposed to pertussis and who has a cough that lasts more than one week should see a health care provider.

Pertussis is treated with antibiotics.

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