British Columbia

Whooping cough on the rise in Okanagan

There have been 58 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, since January in B.C.'s Interior and 60 per cent of the cases involve teenagers.

60 per cent of whooping cough incidents involve teenagers, says Interior Health

There have been 58 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, since January in B.C.'s Interior. (CBC)

The Interior Health Authority is warning of a rise of whooping cough cases in B.C.'s Okanagan region. 

There have been 58 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, since January and 60 per cent of the cases involve teenagers.

The majority of the cases — 36 in total — are in the Okanagan region and the rest spread across the Interior, says Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi, medical health officer with Interior Health.

"It is very contagious and can easily spread from person to person, and is preventable with a vaccine," he said. 

"Infants under one year of age are most at risk for serious complications from pertussis."

Recognize the symptoms

Pertussis starts with similar symptoms to a common cold, such as a runny nose, sore throat and mild fever, and then progresses to a cough.

The cough can become severe, with or without a classic whooping sound and may be accompanied by gasping, gagging, shortness of breath and vomiting.

In serious cases it can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or even death.

Immunization is the best way to prevent the spread of this disease, say health officials. 

The pertussis vaccine is part of the routine childhood vaccinations that are given at two months, four months, six months, and 18 months old, and again between ages four to six year before children start kindergarten. A pertussis vaccine is also given to teens between 14 to 16 years of age in B.C.

"We are strongly advising all parents to ensure their children are immunized so they are not at risk," adds Dr. Golmohammadi. "The pertussis vaccine is very safe and effective in preventing the spread of this disease."

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