Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Increased incidence of whooping cough in South Zone

Alberta Health Services

Due to increases in the number of cases of whooping cough (pertussis) confirmed in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS), AHS is again reminding families of the importance of immunization, particularly to protect their children and other at-risk individuals.

A bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that lasts for weeks, pertussis can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death. Infants one year of age and younger are at greatest risk for these serious complications. In 2012, an infant in South Zone contracted pertussis and died.

Of the 11 cases of pertussis confirmed in the South Zone in 2016 to date, one case has required hospitalization. There were 53 confirmed cases in the South Zone last year.

Whooping cough starts as a cold with runny nose, sneezing, fever of up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius), and mild cough. The cough becomes more severe with repetitive coughing spells followed by a whooping sound when the child breathes in, and some vomiting. Older children and adults may experience milder symptoms, such as a prolonged cough and no whoop.Pertussis can be treated most successfully if caught early; however, immunization can safely prevent disease and, even if it does occur, reduce symptoms and spread of the disease.

In Alberta, pertussis immunizations are offered – free of charge – through Alberta’s routine childhood immunization program. A series of doses is recommended, starting at two months of age, and again at four, six and 18 months; at four to six years; and again in Grade 9. Following this schedule ensures protection is up-to-date.

As infants are at high risk, women in their third trimester of pregnancy who have not previously received a dose of this vaccine are encouraged to be immunized to protect themselves and their newborn infants.

Additional information about pertussis is available through AHS’ childhood immunization website,, at:

Please contact your local Public Health Clinic to make an appointment.Individuals uncertain of their child’s immunization history can contact their local community health centre to discuss.

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 at 811 before seeking medical care. When prescribed treatment, individuals with a confirmed case of pertussis should stay home from work, school or childcare until five days of antibiotics have been completed.

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.

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