North

Whooping cough outbreak slowing, says Nunavut's chief medical officer

The whooping cough outbreak in the Baffin region is not over but is slowing down and so far only three communities are affected, says Nunavut's chief medical officer.

71 confirmed cases of whooping cough in Nunavut to date

'We've seen the number of new cases slow down in the last week,' says Kim Barker, Nunavut's chief medical officer of health. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

The whooping cough outbreak in the Baffin region is slowing down, says Nunavut's chief medical officer.

"I would say that we've seen the number of new cases slow down in the last week," said Kim Barker, Nunavut's chief medical officer of health.

"We're certainly delighted that we haven't had any new cases in any other community, other than the three that we've been watching over the last couple of months."

There are 71 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the territory to date: 36 in Hall Beach, 29 in Iqaluit and six in Pond Inlet.

None of the 71 cases of whooping cough in Nunavut has resulted in a fatality, but in one case the patient was medevaced to a hospital for treatment.

Earlier this summer, the government had said some of those numbers were even higher. Barker said tests showed that some of the patients suspected of having whooping cough had not been infected.

Anyone with a probable case is tested, with swabs being sent to a lab in Ontario. It takes 10 days for the results to come back.

Earlier this month, six Health Canada nurses were flown to a number of Nunavut communities to assist with immunization efforts in places not yet hit by the outbreak.

Getting ready for the school year

Health centres across the territory have made efforts to inoculate as many children and youth as possible in anticipation for the school year.

Pre-school children aged 4 to 6 as well as youth between the ages of 14 and 16 were targeted for booster shots.

"We're hoping if we cover off those ends of the spectrum, we should minimize the amount of spread," said Barker.

Parents are encouraged to check-in with their health centre to ensure their children's vaccinations are up to date.

Vaccination is particularly important for children under the age of two and pregnant women in their last trimester.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease, preventable through immunization and treatable with antibiotics.

Symptoms include a cough followed by an unusual "whoop" sound or a funny-sounding cough and vomiting after coughing or not breathing after coughing.

Frequent hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough, not sharing utensils or cups, and not smoking indoors are some basic techniques to help prevent the spread of whooping cough, said Barker.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.

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