A surge of whooping cough cases in Greater Trail has prompted the Interior Health Authority to issue an alert to parents.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory system which can result in prolonged illness in infants and young children.
“There is a spread of the disease going on in Rossland and Trail,” confirmed Dr. Rob Parker, Medical Health Officer for the health authority.
Since June, 19 cases have been diagnosed, 10 in Rossland and seven in Trail, compared to the usual one or two cases seen this time of year.
The first symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a common cold, and may include runny nose, sneezing, mild fever, and a low-grade cough.
After one to two weeks, the dry, irritating cough evolves into severe coughing spells which can last for more than a minute.
“The child can cough so much they run out of breath,” said Parker, adding “when they breathe in after the coughing they get that whooping sound.”
The illness is spread through coughing and infected people are most contagious during the earliest stages of the illness.
Diagnosis is made by swabbing the throat or nose, and if positive for the pertussis bacteria, treatment includes a full course of antibiotics.
“If you have kids that are sick the best way to stop the spread is to keep your child out of activities and away from other kids,” said Parker.
Whooping cough is best prevented with the pertussis vaccine, which is part of immunizations routinely given in five doses before a child’s sixth birthday.
This whooping cough outbreak follows a similar scenario children in the area were subject to in 2010 due to the low rate of immunization in the West Kootenay.
Only 65 per cent of children are vaccinated in the area compared to 80 or 90 per cent in the rest of the province, explained Parker.
“When a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, a disease can’t take hold,” he said.
Parker is referring to “herd immunity” which is a form of immunity that occurs when a significant portion of the population (herd) is vaccinated, which provides a measure of protection for people who are not vaccinated or haven’t developed immunity.
“Parents have to realize that when they are making a choice around their own child it affects the children around them,” he said. “Immunizing your child not only protects them but their friends and neighbours children as well.”
Parents are recommended to review their children’s immunization record to make sure they are up to date with their vaccines before the new school year starts.
For more information, visit immunizebc.ca or contact Trail Public Health at 364-6219.