By Kalinowski, Tim on October 17, 2019.
Alberta Health Services officially declared a pertussis outbreak in the west part of southern Alberta on Wednesday after five new cases of the disease were confirmed over the past few days.
The outbreak warning currently concerns mainly Raymond, Lethbridge County and the City of Lethbridge, but is apt to spread, said Vivien Suttorp, medical officer of health for the South Zone.
“We have seen an increase in cases even in the last five days,” explained Suttorp. “As compared to last week when we had 11 (confirmed) cases, we’re at 15 cases now. These are locally acquired. That makes me concerned from a public health (perspective) that there are more of these cases circulating in the community than we know. ”
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that may last for weeks. Immunization is the best method to protect against and limit the spread of pertussis.
All residents in the AHS South Zone are encouraged to ensure that they, and their children, are up-to-date on their immunizations. People over the age of 18, who have not yet had their adult booster or haven’t had one in many years, can get a free dose at any local public health clinic.
Expectant mothers are typically offered a booster shot in their 26th week of pregnancy, confirmed Suttorp, in order that their babies are born with the pertussis antibodies in their systems before their first immunization. Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to getting more serious forms of pertussis which can lead to severe illness or even death, she said.
As part of protecting those with higher vulnerability to the disease, AHS announced on Wednesday visitor restrictions are now in place at Chinook Regional Hospital at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), as well as the labor and delivery, pediatrics and maternity units.
Visitors under 16 years of age will not be allowed in these units, and only two visitors at a time will be permitted per patient. People with symptoms – including a cough or runny nose – are reminded to not visit when they are ill.
Suttorp also asked that those suspecting they may have pertussis call ahead to their family doctor or to medical treatment centers at local clinics and hospitals to inform them of their suspicions beforehand so special preventative measures could be put into effect in those facilities to mitigate the risk of transmission to staff and others waiting to see the doctors.
So far in 2019 there have been 42 confirmed cases of pertussis in the South Zone altogether.
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