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Pertussis outbreak now zone-wide in South Zone

Posted on May 4, 2023 by Vauxhall Advance

Alberta Health Services

An outbreak of pertussis (Whooping Cough) declared Jan. 26, 2023 in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS) now has 146 identified cases. This is an increase from 126 as of April 20.

The newly-reported cases indicate the outbreak is now present in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, as well as smaller communities in the zone. Cases have been identified at schools and other community locations such as churches and sites where children gather to take lessons. Public Health is unable to identify linkages between most of the recent cases, indicating there is likely more disease circulating in communities that is not being reported.

The majority of cases are among children between one and nine years old, but some adults have also been affected. Newborns and young children are most vulnerable for severe illness and complications. Five children have required hospitalization during the course of this outbreak.

AHS is issuing a reminder to all people of the importance of immunization, particularly in small children, to prevent further illness. Pertussis is a bacterial infection that causes severe and prolonged coughing that lasts for weeks. It can impact people of all ages but infants one year and younger are at greatest risk of serious complications, including pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and death.

All Alberta residents are reminded to ensure they are up to date on their immunizations and to stay home when sick. Individuals uncertain of their child’s or their own immunization history can contact their local community health centre or public health office. See Alberta’s Routine Childhood Immunization schedule for more information.

If you suspect you are sick with pertussis, seek early medical assessment first by calling your primary care provider or 811 for potential treatment.

As pertussis is a bacterial infection and not a virus, early treatment with appropriate antibiotics can reduce the severity and limit the spread of the illness, as well as shorten the time required to stay at home. People with confirmed pertussis should stay home until five days of treatment with appropriate antibiotics have been completed.

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