Monday, 03 July 2017 08:00

Number of Whooping Cough cases continues to grow

Written by  Demi Knight
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Alberta Health Services (AHS) officials have declared a Whooping Cough outbreak within southern Alberta for the communities of Lethbridge, Fort Macleod and Coaldale.

With 12 confirmed cases June 5 the outbreak was officially declared, however as the weeks progressed, the number of cases climbed. On June 15, 38 cases were confirmed.
By June 19 within the South Zone, numbers had ramped up to 69 confirmed cases.
Dr. Vivien Suttorp, a medical officer of health for AHS South Zone, says there are jumps in these cases due to the small pockets of communities throughout the zone that have exceptionally lower immunization rates.
“There’s small pockets of communities with lower immunization rates, and that’s where we’re seeing most of the outbreaks. We see one or two cases in places with high immunization, but between six and 10 cases in un-immunized communities, and we want people to know that this disease can come and circulate from those communities,” explains Dr. Suttorp.
Although the South Zone in its entirety has similar numbers of immunizations to those of Edmonton and Calgary, there are still small areas that can affect the entire population.
Whooping Cough is a disease that has been prevalent throughout the population for years. It is  a bacterial infection of the airways that can cause severe coughing and difficulty breathing.
While there are many myths and speculations surrounding the idea of vaccinations and their effectiveness, Dr. Suttorp says it’s important to protect oneself and loved ones from these preventable diseases.
“We have an obligation to let the public know, both about these outbreaks and the vaccines that enable families, individuals and children to make the decision to immunize themselves against them.”
Although the end of the school season has arrived, health officials say it’s still important to make sure parents have ongoing options to keep their families safe.
The Government aids in this by offering vaccines free of charge to children through the routine childhood immunization schedule.
Another unique option southern Alberta health officials offer to help tackle these outbreaks is free vaccines to women pregnant in their third trimester who haven’t yet received adult doses of the vaccine.
“Through our public health offices, we offer immunization. It’s a strategy recommending schedule that we have for people. We’re also offering a dose of vaccine to women in their third trimester, to help protect not only the mother, but also to make sure the child gets antibodies from the mother to protect them as well,” says Dr. Suttorp.
Health officials would also like to stress the importance of isolation to stop the spread of these outbreaks, by recommending people who are infected or suspect they might be, to stay home and phone their family physicians or Health Link before seeking medical care. The next course of action would then be to stay home and out of the public until their five days of antibiotics have been completed.
“We want people to know that immunization is important, safe and effective, and remind people that there are preventive strategies,” adds Dr. Suttorp.

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