AHS declares whooping cough outbreak in northern Alberta

Alberta Health Services has declared a whooping cough outbreak in northern Alberta.

182 confirmed cases in a region that normally sees 50 or fewer for entire year

AHS says there are 182 confirmed cases diagnosed in the region 1:11

Alberta Health Services has declared a whooping cough outbreak in northern Alberta.

So far this year, 182 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have been confirmed in the region, which includes Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.

That number makes up about half of the total diagnosed cases in the province.

The northern region normally sees 40 to 50 cases over an entire year, said  Dr. Albert de Villiers, medical officer of health for the AHS northern region.

"Fortunately, at this point, we've only had three people that were actually hospitalized because of this."

The region hasn't had an outbreak like this in several years.

Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing fits, and can lead to pneumonia, convulsions and other serious medical issues. According to AHS, infants under six months old are at the greatest risk for severe complications. 

Alberta children are typically given a pertussis immunization shot as part of the province's immunization program, with doses administered at ages two months, four months, six months and 18 months, once between the ages of four and six years old, and once again in Grade 9.

But de Villiers said only about 72 per cent of kids are currently fully immunized.

Some people just don't make time to get their children vaccinated, others are hesitant and might need more information, he said.

"There's a very small minority of people, a few per cent, who are actively anti-vaccine. We're not necessarily going to focus on them."

AHS is recommending anyone living in the area who has not been immunized, or whose shots are not up-to-date, go into a public or community health clinic for a single dose immunization.

In particular, AHS says young children and those who come into close contact with infants, as well as health care workers and women who are at least 26 weeks pregnant, should ensure they are immunized.


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