New Brunswick

At least one infant case of whooping cough in Moncton outbreak

Alexandra Wartman knows from experience just how awful whooping cough can be. The Moncton woman and her two young boys, one of whom is five years old and the other a two-month old infant, are all recovering from bouts of the highly contagious infection.

Mother says she, her five-year-old and her baby all contracted the disease

Alexandra Wartman cradles her two-month-old son, recovering from whooping cough. (Alexandra Wartman)

Alexandra Wartman knows from personal experience just how awful whooping cough can be.

The Moncton woman and her two young boys, one of whom is five and the other a two-month old infant, are all recovering from bouts of the highly contagious bacterial disease. 

We thought that we were going to lose him.- Alexandra Wartman

On Thursday, health officials in Moncton told reporters the number of cases of the disease, also called pertussis, have gone up again in the area.There are now 36 confirmed cases. 

Dr. Yves Léger, the district medical officer of health for the Moncton region said, "We know that really what we are seeing is the tip of the iceberg, so we know that there are a lot of other cases in the community that are not being diagnosed or identified, so there is transmission that can continue to occur in the community.That's why it's important that people remain aware."

Health officials told reporters Thursday there have been no reports of infants diagnosed with pertussis, and that doctors are required to report cases to the department of health.

It's unclear what happened in the case of Wartman's family, and why the department wasn't advised.

'He was turning blue'

Wartman said the symptoms did not seem severe at first.

"My little five-year old came home with a runny nose. It started out as a sore throat, sore ears, runny nose. It was clear fluid [so] we weren't really worried as far as him having pertussis at all, at that point," she told CBC News.

"We just thought he had a cold, we really had no idea at the time," 

What we are seeing is the tip of the iceberg.- Dr. Yves Léger, district medical health officer
Wartman says she thinks she caught it from her five-year-old, and she ended up with pneumonia.
Alexandra Wartman's two-month-old son contracted whooping cough before he was vaccinated and had to be put on oxygen to help him breathe. (Alexandra Wartman)

But it was worse for her infant, whose severe symptoms came on quickly.

"After two weeks of just non-severe symptoms, it basically progressed overnight to him having a very difficult time breathing. He was turning blue, he was having coughing fits to the point where he was gagging and puking," said Wartman.

At the hospital, Wartman says it was "horrifying" to watch her newborn struggling.

"His heart rate dropped a good few times and we thought that we were going to lose him. He wasn't breathing on his own. He was on oxygen," she said.

"We're very lucky we caught in it in the stage that we did and it was able to be treated."

At the same time her baby was suffering, Wartman was also extremely ill with pneumonia.

The baby hadn't been vaccinated against pertussis. She said he was due to get that vaccine within a week of getting sick.

A number of health professionals told her it was whopping cough, but the test done on the baby came back negative, a false result.

Despite the test results, her doctor began treating her infant for pertussis and he is on the mend.

All cases must be reported

Wartman feels too many people may have been turned away by health professionals as the symptoms may have been deemed just a cold.

Her advice for other parents is to insist on a test for whooping cough once a child starts showing any symptoms.

Her older son contracted the illness, even though he'd been vaccinated. Wartman said it's her understanding the vaccine is not always effective.

Bruce MacFarlane is director of communications with the provincial department of health.

He says the department will remind doctors about the importance of reporting pertussis cases to public health officials, especially hospitalised cases‎.

MacFarlane says he encourages Wartman to contact Public Health officials‎ right away to provide details, so they can follow up.

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