Alberta Health Services has declared a whooping cough outbreak in part of southern Alberta.
The affected region includes Lethbridge, Lethbridge County and Raymond.
There have been 15 new cases of pertussis or whooping cough in the past two weeks, AHS said Wednesday, which brings the total number of confirmed cases to 42 this year in Alberta’s south zone.
There were 58 confirmed cases in the south zone last year.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that can last for weeks, AHS said.
It can affect people of any age, but infants one-year-old and younger are most at risk of serious complications, including pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and death.
At Lethbridge’s Chinook Regional Hospital, visitor restrictions are now in place for the neonatal intensive care unit, labour and delivery, pediatric and maternity units. The restrictions limit access for visitors under 16 and limit the number of visitors to two at a time per patient. Anyone with symptoms, including a cough or runny nose, should not visit, AHS said.
Get immunized, AHS says
AHS is recommending everyone stay up to date on their immunizations to protect against the spread of whooping cough.
If you aren’t sure of your or your child’s immunization history, you can call Health Link at 811 or your local health centre to discuss or book an appointment.
The pertussis vaccine is offered free in Alberta to children and pregnant women in their third trimester. Adults should also receive a dose of the vaccine, AHS said.
Dr. Vivian Suttorp said last week that some schools in the area have pertussis immunization rates as low as 20 per cent — a red flag for officials given the fact that whooping cough is spread easily.
“Regardless of age, everyone is reminded not to share water bottles, lipstick, lip balm or drinks,” AHS said in a release.
The first symptoms of pertussis or whooping cough are runny nose, sneezing, fever and mild cough. Over about a week, the cough will usually become more severe with repetitive spells. In younger children, the coughing is followed by a “whooping” sound when inhaling that gives the illness its name. Vomiting following coughing is also common.
Anyone with a confirmed case of whooping cough should stay home from school or work until five days of antibiotics have been completed, AHS said.
An outbreak of whooping cough in 2017 led to 457 cases in the south zone.