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Quebec whooping cough: 5 things to know

A public health physician shares important facts to keep the disease from resurging in the wake of the deaths of two Quebec babies.

Deaths and explosion of cases in Mauricie prompt warning from health officials

Quebec health officials say it's crucial for babies to follow the vaccination schedule for the whooping cough. (Toby Talbot/Associated Press)

A Quebec public health physician is coming forward with facts about whooping cough following the death of a six-week-old baby last week in the Laurentians. Another child, who was about 18-months-old, also died recently in a nearby region.

Officials say the disease was contracted by the newborn from family members who were not vaccinated against it. 

Cases of the highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection have jumped recently in certain areas of Quebec.

In the Mauricie, 266 probable cases have been identified and are awaiting confirmation.

Dr. Fernand Guillmette, a public health physician in Trois-Rivières, has been following these cases.

Here he shares some keys facts about the disease and how to prevent it.

1. When to worry

It depends if you've been in contact with whooping cough.

If you know you have, and you start to have a runny nose and develop a cough, then you should start to worry. But you need to have a clue at first, because if there's no whooping cough around, then it's probably just a cold.

And if you do suspect whooping cough, see a physician. It needs to be treated.

2. The treatment

Antibiotics are prescribed, and it takes five to seven days to eliminate the bacteria.

However, the coughing may persist, sometimes for up to 10 weeks in severe cases.

3. Vaccination is best prevention

Get vaccinated. It's the best weapon against the disease, and it's effective 85 per cent of the time.

To avoid passing the disease to others, cough into the elbows. Whooping cough is contagious from the start, and coughing makes it worse.

Newborns who have not been vaccinated shouldn't receive visits from people showing symptoms.

4. The risks in young infants

Babies run the highest risk of developing complications from whooping cough. The coughing can be so intense that they can die of exhaustion. Other complications include brain haemorrhages, pneumonia, lung failure, hernias, and bleeding on the face and in the eyes.

5. The importance of getting vaccinated on time

It's critical to get the shots on time to keep the disease away. The recommended ages for shots are:

  • Two months
  • Four months
  • Six months
  • 18 months
  • Between 4 and 6 years
  • Third grade of secondary school
  • Once after 18 years

with files from Marika Wheeler

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