Pangnirtung latest Nunavut community with confirmed whooping cough case

Pangnirtung has become the ninth Nunavut community affected by the territory's outbreak of whooping cough, according to Nunavut's health department.

9 communities in the territory have been affected by this year's outbreak

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a vaccine-preventable disease, so the department of health is asking people to check if their vaccinations are up to date. (Tony Talbot/AP)

Pangnirtung has become the ninth Nunavut community affected by the territory's outbreak of whooping cough, according to Nunavut's health department.

"The health centre has done a great deal of work this week to ramp up immunization, as well as letting the community know to be aware of signs and symptoms," said Dr. Kim Barker, chief medical officer of health for the territory.

Cases of the disease, also known as pertussis, have also been confirmed in Coral Harbour, Naujaat, Cape Dorset, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Iqaluit, Pond Inlet and Qikiqtarjuaq. 

The outbreak began in May.

"If we go back to August, at that stage we had pertussis in about four communities with about 70 cases," said Barker. "We're now in nine communities with 139 cases.

"It definitely continues to spread."

While anyone can get whooping cough, the most severe cases are in children under the age of one, said a government news release. 

Symptoms include a cough followed by an unusual whooping sound, vomiting after coughing and coughing that is worse at night.

It is not unusual to see a resurgence of whooping cough every five to seven years, Barker said. 

"Overcrowding, exposure to second-hand smoke, lack of hand hygiene. All of those things are really strongly contributing to the outbreak," she said.

Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease, so the department of health is asking people to check if their vaccinations are up to date.

"We're prepared and we've got plenty of vaccine in stock and we're encouraging people to take advantage of it," said Barker.

In particular, the health department wants pregnant women in their third trimester, infants under two and those with weakened immune systems to ensure they are immunized.

Frequent handwashing, coughing into your sleeve and not sharing drinks, utensils or toothbrushes are other precautions that can be taken to minimize susceptibility to the disease.

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