There have been 370 cases of whooping cough diagnosed in New Brunswick, mainly among children. (Stock)

The province of New Brunswick will vaccinate nearly 12,000 students in Saint John and Moncton following an outbreak of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.


Typically, there are 40 cases of whooping cough in the province each year. But this year, 370 cases have been reported so far, said Dr. Eilish Cleary, chief medical officer of health.


"We tend to see outbreaks of this disease in cycles.  We have been anticipating that we would get an outbreak of pertussis here in New Brunswick because it’s a number of years since we saw the last outbreak," she said.


Whooping cough leads to a dry, rough cough in adults, but can be fatal for babies and small children.


Cleary said the outbreak is concentrated in Moncton and Saint John. More than 200 cases have been reported in Moncton alone.


"We have seen a slight increase a little bit more recently in Fredericton and up north as well, but not at the degree that we have seen in those other areas," she said.


Whooping cough is easily passed from person to person.  Clearly said people who have been vaccinated may still get it.


"But what it does do, if you’re vaccinated and you get it, usually you don’t get the severity of the disease and the complications. One of the interesting things about this outbreak that we’re having is that we’re seeing a number of cases in school aged children, many of those had been vaccinated."


Cleary said they will try to vaccinate nearly 12,000 students before the school year is out, starting with Saint John and Moncton. 


"We have to start where the problem is greatest."


She said they will head to other communities when school starts up again in the fall. She recommends people visit their doctor if they are showing symptoms of whooping cough.