Alberta Health Services (AHS) has declared an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in the west part of AHS South Zone, including the communities of Lethbridge, Lethbridge County and Raymond.
There have been 15 new cases of pertussis confirmed in the South Zone in the last two weeks, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 42 for 2019. There were 58 confirmed cases in the South Zone last year.
For the protection of the most vulnerable patients at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, visitor restrictions are now in place for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), as well as the labour and delivery, pediatrics and maternity units. This will restrict access to visitors under 16 years of age and limit visitors to two at a time per patient. People with symptoms – including a cough or runny nose – are reminded to not visit when they are ill.
Pertussis – a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that may last for weeks – can impact all age groups; however, infants one year of age and younger are at greatest risk of serious complications, including pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death.
Immunization is the best method to protect against and limit the spread of pertussis. All residents in AHS South Zone are encouraged to ensure that they, and their children, are up-to-date on their immunizations. People who are uncertain of their immunization history, or their child’s, can contact Health Link at 811, or their local community health centre or public health office to discuss and/or to book an appointment.
In Alberta, vaccine that protects against pertussis is offered to children, free of charge, through Alberta’s Routine Childhood Immunization schedule. Pregnant women in the third trimester
(26 weeks) are also offered pertussis-containing vaccine. All adults 18 years of age and older are advised to receive one adult dose of pertussis-containing vaccine.
Regardless of age, everyone is reminded not to share water bottles, lipstick, lip balm or drinks.
Pertussis illness starts with a runny nose, sneezing, fever and mild cough. Typically, over about a week, the cough will become more severe with repetitive coughing spells. In younger children, these coughing spells are usually followed by a “whooping” sound when inhaling. Vomiting following a coughing spell is also common.
Older children and adults may experience milder symptoms, such as a prolonged cough or whooping sound. However, in anyone, the cough may last for two months or longer.
People who suspect they, or a family member, may be sick with pertussis should stay at home and call a family physician or Health Link 811 before seeking medical care. Individuals with a confirmed case of pertussis should stay home from work, school or childcare until five days of antibiotics have been completed.
Additional information about pertussis and the importance of immunization is available online at http://immunizealberta.ca/i-need-know-more/diseases-covered/pertussis-whooping-cough.
Dr. Vivien Suttorp, Medical Officer of Health, South Zone, will be available to speak with media at the main entrance of the Lethbridge Health Unit, 801 1 Ave. S. at 10:30 a.m. today.
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.