Whooping cough

Whooping cough can be serious for infants. (CBC)

A whooping cough outbreak on P.E.I., the first in nearly a decade, is growing in the western part of the province.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial lung infection that poses a serious risk to babies. Adults can show much milder symptoms, which can help in its spread.

"With those individuals they can actually have pertussis, have a mild cough and not know it, and then pass it on to vulnerable infants," said Dr. David Sabapathy, the province's deputy chief health officer.

The outbreak started with six confirmed cases in February. There are now 24. Four babies have been hospitalized.

Most of the cases in this outbreak happened in Western P.E.I. Several of those afflicted were not immunized, he said, but should have been.

David Sabapathy - custom

Pertussis can be prevented by immunization, says P.E.I.'s deputy chief health officer, Dr. David Sabapathy. (CBC)

"It often will happen in pockets of people, in communities that are under-immunized with pertussis vaccine, so we encourage you to get your vaccine," said Sabapathy.

Vaccinations are paid for for those under 18. In 2011 the province began paying for adults to get the whooping cough vaccine if they are around young children in an attempt to stop the spread of pertussis to the most vulnerable.

"This is a vaccine preventable disease, it's something we can do something about. If we follow the routine schedule and get up to date on our vaccine it's the best protection you can provide," said Sabapathy.

The first scheduled round of vaccinations for people is at just two months of age, but Sabapathy said it's never too late to head to the doctor to take the steps necessary to get protected.