Sask. health officials: Make sure whooping cough vaccine is up to date

Public health officials are urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date.

7 people in Yorkton have tested positive for whooping cough since August

Several provinces are seeing outbreaks of whooping cough. (Jae C. Hong/ AP)

Public health officials are urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date.

Several provinces are seeing outbreaks of whooping cough, including some clusters here in Saskatchewan.

Dr. Johnmark Opondo, Saskatoon's deputy medical health officer, said there were four confirmed cases in the past week, indicating the outbreak is escalating.

"What's been happening with whooping cough is every 10 years we do see this cyclical increase, not just in Saskatchewan but in North America," Opondo told Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski. "So what we've been seeing is a little bit higher than normal."

The communities where we see disease still circulating, these are people who have chosen not to immunize their children.- Dr. Johnmark Opondo, Saskatoon's deputy medical health officer

In Yorkton, seven people have tested positive since August and at least 12 other people who had been in contact with them have symptoms.

Opondo said there have been some worrisome cases emerge in Saskatoon as well.

"From sort of the summer period, we began seeing some increased cases, a couple of adult cases," he said. "But more worrying, we have a few infant cases, which are the population that is at risk of suffering severe disease."

Opondo said parents should make sure to vaccinate their children once they are two months old.

Whooping cough, which Opondo points out is a preventable illness, is the second most common infectious childhood disease in Canada after influenza.

"It usually starts off like a common cold, but the coughs come in spasms," he said. "It may cause vomiting. It may cause convulsions. It may cause the little ones to pass out."

The disease is highly contagious and passed through saliva and mucus from person to person.

If you have a cough that lasts two weeks or more, or any other symptoms of whooping cough (sneezing, runny nose and a fever) see a doctor or nurse practitioner.

Link to anti-vaxxers

When asked whether he believes there is any link to what has been called the anti-vaccination movement, Opondo said "there is some link."

"The communities where we see disease still circulating, these are people who have chosen not to immunize their children," he said. "Like many vaccines, to get good protection for the whole community, a large proportion of people need to participate in these programs. So these pockets of under-immunized families, especially with children, is really where we do see new disease happening."

The Saskatchewan health ministry said the last peak year was in 2010 with 234 reported cases of whooping cough.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.