Canada's Whooping Cough Outbreak Centered in Southwest Ottawa
Parents living in St. Thomas, Elgin, and Oxford counties in Ottawa were recently advised to be alert to respiratory symptoms, which are particularly dangerous in young children.
Symptoms of the vaccine-preventable disease pertussis start with a runny nose or nasal congestion, sneezing, mild cough, and mild fever.
Southwestern Public Health, which is located between Detroit and Toronto, announced on March 8, 2023, parents and guardians should keep themselves and their children up to date with the pertussis vaccine after a recent dramatic rise in cases in the region.
"Our region has seen 82 confirmed cases of pertussis between January 2022 and February 28, 2023. This represents about 40% of the provincial total from that time period."
"Combine this with the number of children who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, and I am concerned in particular for the youngest members of our community," says Dr. Ninh Tran, Medical Officer of Health for Southwestern Public Health, in a related press release.
Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a vaccine-preventable disease.
This vaccine is routinely administered to children along with protection from polio, tetanus, and diphtheria (DTaP).
In the U.S., DTaP vaccines such as Boostrix are offered at clinics and pharmacies.
Pertussis is very contagious and spreads via droplets from the noses and mouths of those who are infected.
The cough, which can last anywhere from 2 – 8 weeks, gets progressively worse and may lead to vomiting or trouble breathing and coughing up mucous. It can often be recognized by the loud "whooping" sound that occurs when the child is inhaling after a coughing spell.
Untreated pertussis in infants can lead to hospitalization, brain damage, and death.
Furthermore, new research indicates an expecting mother can take action to protect her future child.
According to an Original Investigation published by JAMA Pediatrics in February 2023, maternal Tdap vaccination reduces pertussis burden in infants (2 months).
"I have two asks of our local parents."
"The first is that you make yourself familiar with the symptoms of pertussis and seek medical care if your child has these symptoms."
"It can be treated with antibiotics, and after five days on the treatment, the person can no longer spread the disease to others."
"Second, please contact your family health care provider or Southwestern Public Health to get your child's routine vaccinations up to date."
"The vaccine is free, and we have openings in our clinics throughout the month of March," adds Tran.
Ottawa residents requiring a public health vaccination clinic appointment can book online at www.swpublichealth.ca/booking.