Case of whooping cough confirmed in Bella Coola

Babies under the age of one and pregnant women in their last trimester are at particular risk

A case of whooping cough (pertussis) has been confirmed at Bella Coola Elementary. Parents received notification of the confirmed case in a newsletter from Vancouver Coastal Health emailed this week. The case was confirmed between Jan. 6, 2020 and Feb. 3, 2020 and the newsletter indicates children at the school may have been exposed.

Whooping cough is a contagious disease of the lungs and throat caused by bacteria in the mouth, nose, and throat of an infected person. It is spread when the sick person coughs or sneezes, and can be very serious for infants under one year old. Whooping cough is usually treated with antibiotics. These medicines make it less likely that the disease will spread.

Althea Hayden, Medical Health Officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, said that preventative antibiotics are recommended for some people who many have been exposed.

“We recommend preventative antibiotics for some people who have been exposed to pertussis and have a very high risk of complications, even if they do not have symptoms yet,” said Hayden. “These are babies less than one year and pregnant women in their last three months of pregnancy. Please contact public health if you are in your last three months of pregnancy and/or you have a child under the age of one who spent time at Bella Coola Elementary.”

Hayden said now is a good time to make sure your vaccinations are up to date. Making sure that you and your children are immunized against whooping cough is the best way to prevent it. Starting at age 2 months, children need a series of shots (called DTaP) to protect against whooping cough. A booster shot (called Tdap) is recommended for ages 14 to 16 and for adults who haven’t had a Tdap shot yet.

Because whooping cough symptoms can be mild in adults, you may not know that you have the illness. Without a Tdap shot, if you have whooping cough, you can spread whooping cough to a young infant or another person who isn’t protected and for whom the disease is much more dangerous.

You can get whooping cough more than one time, and you may get it years apart. But you will be less likely to get it again if you get the shots as recommended. Washing your hands often and staying away from people who have a bad cough may also help you avoid getting the disease.

If you have questions please call the Communicable Disease Control nurse at 604-675-3900. For information about vaccination visit www.immunizebc.ca

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