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Whooping cough could spread to more Nunavut communities

Nunavut’s chief medical officer says she’s not surprised a whooping cough outbreak has spread to Cape Dorset. In fact, she anticipates it will spread to more communities across the territory.

‘It's not a surprise for us to see other communities affected,' says chief medical officer

'In the communities which were hard hit early on it is slowing down,' says Kim Barker, Nunavut's chief medical officer of health. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Nunavut's chief medical officer says she's not surprised a whooping cough outbreak has spread to Cape Dorset. In fact, she anticipates it will spread to more communities across the territory.

"In the communities which were hard hit early on it is slowing down," says Dr. Kim Barker, Nunavut's chief medical officer of health.

"But it's not a surprise for us to see other communities affected, and we anticipate that more communities could be affected, considering the extensive travel that happens."

Cape Dorset is the fourth community in the Qikiqtani Region to have confirmed cases of the disease. There are now over 70 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the territory.

Earlier this month, Health Canada nurses performed vaccination clinics in Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Igloolik and Cape Dorset. Barker says the nurses vaccinated 150 people in Cape Dorset.

The good news, according to Barker, is that the number of new cases in Pond Inlet, Iqaluit and Hall Beach has been waning.

Ramping up vaccinations

With the school term already underway in some Nunavut communities, and starting soon in others, the territory is ramping up vaccinations for students in Grade 9 and pre-schoolers between the ages of four and six.

"If people haven't, because of travel or other reasons, been able to get immunized, and they feel that their vaccines are not up to date, then they should definitely contact their healthcare provider," says Barker.

Whooping cough is a contagious infection of the throat and lungs. A tell-tale sign of the disease is a cough followed by what sounds like a "whoop" and vomiting or not breathing after coughing.

The Department of Health says the best way to protect yourself is to ensure everyone in your household is vaccinated.

With files from Elyse Skura

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