New Brunswick

Whooping cough outbreak in Fredericton region jumps to 22 confirmed cases

There are now 22 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the greater Fredericton area, including 19 school-aged children, according to the regional medical officer of health.

Public health offering immunization clinics over the next week for those at risk

Whooping cough can occur at any age, however it is very serious in babies and young children, say public health officials. (Shutterstock)

There are now 22 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the greater Fredericton area, including 19 school-aged children from several schools, says the regional medical officer of health.

That's nearly double the number of cases from last month when Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey declared a whooping cough outbreak for the capital region.

Public health will be offering immunization clinics over the next week for those most at risk of the bacterial respiratory infection easily spread through droplets in the air from coughing and sneezing, Lamptey said on Tuesday.

That includes people who have been in close contact with any of the confirmed cases and do not have a primary care provider who can immunize them, she said.

No details about the affected individuals have been released, but the affected schools include: Garden Creek Elementary, Park Street Elementary School, Gibson-Neill Memorial Elementary, Nashwaaksis Middle School, Fredericton Christian Academy and George Street Middle School.

The clinics will also be for infants without a primary care provider, as well as pre-schoolers and adults who don't have the recommended booster dose or a primary care provider.

Health officials did not provide any information about the locations or times of the clinics.

Can be severe in children

Whooping cough, also known as as pertussis, can occur at any age, but is most serious in young children. For infants under the age of one, it can be fatal.

In New Brunswick, children should have doses of the pertussis vaccine when they are two months old, four, six and 18 months old and again at age four, followed by a booster dose in Grade 7, said Lamptey.

Adults should receive one dose of a pertussis-containing vaccine because immunity from the vaccine decreases over time.

Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey, regional medical officer of health, said parents who seek medical attention should tell their primary care provider that they and their children may have had contact with a confirmed case of whooping cough. (CBC)

Whooping cough starts with cold-like symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough that gradually worsens, leading to serious coughing spells that often end with a "whoop."

Symptoms usually begin within seven to 10 days of exposure. If left untreated, an infected person can spread the disease for up to three weeks after the coughing begins.

The disease can be diagnosed through a nose culture or blood test and treated with antibiotics.

Provincial annual average is 27

Last month, Lamptey said 10 children and two adults in the Fredericton health region had been diagnosed since January.

Normally the region, which encompasses the Upper St. John River Valley, sees no more than one case a year, while the entire province sees about 27 confirmed cases.

A whooping cough outbreak was also declared at Moncton High School in March after five cases were confirmed.

Vaccination is free.