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Doctors on alert for whooping cough
Alberta outbreak a reminder for parents to get children vaccinated, chief public health officer says

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Saturday, August 29, 2015

The territory's chief medical officer of health says doctors around the NWT should be watching for signs of whooping cough in patients after an outbreak of the illness in northern Alberta.

NNSL photo/graphic

Andre Corriveau: NWT chief medical officer says whooping cough cases in Hay River not an outbreak. - NNSL file photo

Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak Wednesday in its northern health district, which covers much of the top of that province. A news release states there have been 182 confirmed cases, three of which required hospitalization.

Because of how many people here travel through Alberta or have family links to that province, the territory always keeps a close eye on what's going on there, said Dr. Andre Corriveau, chief public health officer of the NWT.

"We know there's a lot of contacts between the Northwest Territories and Alberta so we put our own folks on alert," Corriveau told Yellowknifer.

Four cases of whooping cough were found in Hay River in August but no link could be established to the Alberta outbreak, he said. The four people - between the ages of 12 and 14 - have recovered, he said.

"We haven't had any more cases since then, so we don't have an outbreak," he said.

Doctors are required to report suspected cases and cases confirmed via a specific test for the infection.

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a respiratory infection caused by bacteria. In its early stages it has symptoms similar to the common cold.

It mostly affects children and is most dangerous to infants. The severe coughing fits it causes can lead to choking or vomiting, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada's website which states there are 1,000 to 3,000 cases in the country per year. Antibiotics can treat the illness. Without treatment, it can last for months and can cause brain damage or death.

The top doctor said he's not too worried about the Alberta outbreak spreading North because immunization rates here are fairly good.

There hasn't been a sizable outbreak in the territory in recent memory, said Corriveau, who attributed that to a high vaccination rate.

According to Health and Social Services, 75.1 per cent of children born in 2011 were up to date in their immunization by age two.

Vaccine reminder

With students returning to classrooms, he said it's a good time to remind parents that their children should be vaccinated.

Health officials have noted the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine wanes with time, so he said it's also important people get a booster shot.

He recommended people download an application on their phone or tablet computer called ImmunizeCA which can store immunization records and keeps a schedule of when shots should be received. It also provides alerts about disease outbreaks in the user's area.

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