PROVINCE URGING VACCINATIONS TO PREVENT WHOOPING COUGH
In response to a significant increase in whooping cough (pertussis) in several Canadian provinces, Manitoba Health is recommending that adults in regular contact with children be vaccinated to prevent whooping cough infection. This is especially important for caregivers of infants less than two months of age, as those infants are not yet eligible to be vaccinated for whooping cough.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection that spreads through coughs and sneezes or by sharing food and drink. Symptoms initially resemble a mild cold, progressing to severe bouts of coughing that can last for weeks. Whooping cough most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in children less than one year of age.
The current whooping cough vaccine, known as the acellular pertussis vaccine, was introduced in Manitoba in 1997. Free vaccination with acellular pertussis vaccine is available to primary caregivers of newborn infants, who have not previously received this vaccine. Adults who are due for a tetanus booster (given at 10-year intervals) and have not received the acellular pertussis vaccine are also eligible. For these individuals, the acellular pertussis vaccine is combined with the tetanus booster in a single vaccine, called Tdap.
This year in Manitoba, there have been 13 laboratory-confirmed cases of whooping cough including one death. Over the past few years, there has been a slight upward trend in the annual number of cases among children, while the number of cases reported in adults has remained stable. Over the past 10 years, Manitoba has averaged 37 cases of whooping cough annually, ranging from a high of 83 in 2004 to a low of 12 in 2006.
Proper cough and hand washing etiquette is also an important way to prevent the spread of infection. This includes covering your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your upper sleeve, when you cough or sneeze; putting the used tissue in a waste basket; and washing your hands with soap and water, or cleaning them with an alcohol-based hand rub.
Anyone who has experienced mild cold symptoms that have progressed to a severe cough after seven to 14 days, along with persistent bouts of coughing that have a ‘whoop’ sound, are encouraged to see their primary care provider. Symptoms are often more severe in children than adults.