Nunavut's whooping cough outbreak reaches Igloolik

The number of cases continue to rise and whooping cough has spread to yet another Nunavut community as the latest outbreak stretches past its fifth month.

Some health centres are open to emergencies only as illness takes a toll on health-care system

Dr. Kim Barker, Nunavut's chief medical officer of health, is 'encouraging people to get vaccinated so that they don't overwhelm the health-care system.' (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

The number of cases continue to rise and whooping cough has spread to yet another Nunavut community as the latest outbreak stretches past its fifth month.

Cases have now been confirmed in Igloolik, said Dr. Kim Barker, Nunavut's chief medical officer of health, Thursday.

There are now 98 confirmed cases across the territory, causing strain on Nunavut's health-care system.

"A number of the health centres have had to close to emergencies only because of the large numbers of people presenting to the health centre," Barker said.

"It a real challenge, which is why we're really encouraging people to get vaccinated so that they don't overwhelm the health-care system."

The territory brought in Health Canada nurses during the summer to help cover a nursing shortage.

"At this point I think we're able to manage," Barker said, noting that summer vacations made staffing a challenge.

But with flu season around the corner, the chief medical officer is worried it will add to the problem.

5 infants medevaced

Igloolik now joins Cape Dorset, Hall Beach, Pond Inlet and Iqaluit with confirmed cases of whooping cough. 

Compounding the problem, said Barker, is overcrowded homes, which allow for easier transmission.

Since the outbreak, five infants have been medevaced from communities as a precaution. No one has died. 

In Iqaluit, a whooping cough booster shot for Grade 9 students has been extended to include Grade 8s.

Barker said the department is considering rolling out a similar strategy in other communities.

In the meantime, she encourages everyone, particularly children under two and pregnant mothers, to get vaccinated for whooping cough.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is highly contagious. Symptoms include a cough followed by an unusual "whoop" sound or a funny-sounding cough and vomiting or having difficulty breathing after coughing.