The Timiskaming Health Unit is investigating five cases of whooping cough (pertussis) in the Kirkland Lake area with exposure at Sacred Heart Catholic School. Public Health Nurses are contacting parents and guardians of students who have the highest risk of exposure. On November 11th the health unit called a community outbreak in Temiskaming Shores, which has seen 13 cases of confirmed or probable whooping cough to date. With the recent cases in Kirkland Lake, Timiskaming Health Unit is now declaring a district-wide whooping cough outbreak.
The Timiskaming Health Unit would also like to recognize the efforts made by health care providers across the district in identifying, managing, and treating cases. Health care providers have also been a valued system partner in their promotion of vaccination. Whooping cough vaccination coverage remains high across the district. In the 2017-2018 school year, whooping cough vaccination rates were 94.6% for 7-year-olds. However, immunity to pertussis can wane 4-20 years after vaccination or natural infection with whooping cough.
“Whooping cough is an infection that causes coughing fits or spells that may end with vomiting or gasping for air,” said Dr. Glenn Corneil, Timiskaming’s Acting Medical Officer of Health. “The germs spread easily from person to person. Babies under the age of one are at the most risk for severe infection. Immunization provides the best protection against whooping cough,” added Dr. Corneil.
During this time of year, there are many respiratory illness circulating in the community including: croup, common cold, and bronchitis. However, whooping cough is distinctive in the severity and the duration of the cough. While whooping cough starts like a common cold, with sneezing, runny nose, low fever, and a mild occasional cough, the cough will get worse over two weeks. After two weeks, coughing spells develop and the cough may end in a whooping sound. The cough may be so severe that the person can gag or throw up. Sometimes a thick, clear mucous can be spit out.
The coughing spells can last for weeks or months. Older children and adults may have prolongedcough without the “whoop” or vomiting.