Alberta Health Services has declared an outbreak of whooping cough in the central zone of the province.

AHS said in a statement that central Alberta has seen a sustained increase in the number of confirmed cases of pertussis — more commonly known as whooping cough — and of the 107 cases treated this year, seven have required hospitalization.. ​

Whooping cough is caused by bacteria that infects the lungs and airways. The disease causes severe coughing that can last for weeks and can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death. 

Babies under the age of six months are at greatest risk of developing serious complications.

Whooping cough is treatable, especially if caught early, but AHS says immunization can safely prevent the disease.

in Alberta, the pertussis vaccine is part of a child's routine immunization program.

Health officials are offering more vaccination appointments to try to reduce the rate of infections.

The appointments are specifically intended for the following central Alberta residents:

  • Infants and preschool-aged children who are not up to date on immunizations.
  • Caregivers of infants such as parents, grandparents, nannies and child-care staff.
  • Health-care workers.
  • Woman who are more than 26-weeks pregnant.

Anyone who suspects they or a family member may be sick with pertussis are advised to stay home and call a family physician or Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-LINK(5465) before seeking medical care.

Additional information about pertussis is available through AHS’s childhood immunization website.