Parents in the Williams Lake area are being warned their children may have been exposed to Pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough.
School District 27 distributed letters from Interior Health this week for parents outlining the symptoms and the fact Pertussis can spread easily.
There have been about 30 cases throughout the IH region, and the majority of them have been in the Thompson Cariboo so far in 2019, said Dr. Karin Goodison, medical health officer with IH.
“What we know about Pertussis is, it sort of goes through cycles,” Goodison said. “Every three to five years we see more cases. Last year we did not see many at all, but in 2016 and 2017 we saw a lot of cases. In 2019 we are starting to see some clusters of cases so we are going to be keeping an eye on that.”
Vaccines are helpful in preventing Pertussis, but they are not 100 per cent effective, Goodison added.
“Unfortunately it’s one of our vaccines that doesn’t work as well as some of our other vaccines. Your chances of getting Pertussis are much lower if you are a vaccinated, but you still can get the infection if you are exposed to someone who has it, particularly if it’s been quite awhile since you were immunized.”
People at the highest risk are those who are under the age of one and pregnant women, Goodison said.
“When we are looking at offering Pertussis immunization, our goal of the program is to protect those groups of people.”
Overall in the Thompson Cariboo, about 77 per cent of two year olds are up to date with Pertussis immunizations and 74 per cent of seven year olds, Goodison confirmed.
“That’s pretty good, compared to the rest of Interior Health, but we would like to see it higher.”
If a person has had a persistent cough or been exposed to someone they know that has been diagnosed with with Pertussis, they should visit a care provider to get tested
“Some people, especially young people, will make a ‘whoop’ sound in between episodes of coughing,” Goodison said.
To test for Pertussis, a swab is taken from inside the nasal passage.
Treatment is antibiotics to clear the bacteria, and prevent it from being spread further, but the symptoms can last up to six to eight weeks.
“We see a few more cases throughout the spring and summer typically, so it’s kind of got a seasonal pattern. It’s quite interesting to look at it over time. If you look back in 2016 and 2017, the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap had a very similar rate of illness as it does right now.”
Work is being done to develop a better vaccine, recognizing that the protection from Pertussis is not as long lasting, she added.
In Canada, children are immunized for Pertussis under the age of two and again in when they are in school.