Whooping cough immunization key to protecting kids, says SHA

Saskatchewan Health Authority Medical Health Officer Dr. Simon Kapaj speaks at a news conference in Saskatoon November 14

An outbreak of 25 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, in the Rosthern area has prompted an alert from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

SHA Medical Health Officer Dr. Simon Kapaj said immunization is the best way to protect children, youth, and adults from the highly-contagious disease.

“The vaccine for whooping cough is available, free of charge, to anyone,” said Kapaj at a news conference at the SHA public health office in Saskatoon on Wednesday, November 14. “It’s very important for parents to ensure their children’s vaccine shots are up to date. This is a very preventable disease.”

The majority of the cases of whooping cough so far have been children, and most of those are under the age of five years.

A series of child drop-in immunization clinics were held in Rosthern November 8 and 9 after a cluster of pertussis cases were detected in the Rosthern, Hepburn, Waldheim, Wakaw and Hague areas. Public health nurses have also been to schools in those communities to assist in immunization efforts.

Karpaj said pertussis is a highly-contagious respiratory infection caused by bacteria spread by direct contact with droplets form the nose and throat of an infected person. The bacteria spreads easily when people are in close contact in households, classrooms and childcare centres.

Symptoms of whooping cough are similar to colds or influenza, but have a distinctive “whooping” sound while breathing in during coughing bouts.

In addition to covering your cough and washing your hands thoroughly, the best protection against pertussis is vaccination, said Kapaj.

“The more people that are vaccinated, the greater the protection for everyone,” said Kapaj. 

Vaccination is available to children at two, four, six and 18 months of age, and again between four and six years of age, as well as children in Grade 8. Pregnant women can be vaccinated after 26 weeks of pregnancy, and adults when they are due for their 10-year tetanus and diphtheria booster.

Kapaj said pertussis is extremely dangerous for young infants under two months of age. He said all pregnant women should be vaccinated to protect their newborns.

The SHA is also urging everyone to get a flu shot.