Thursday, September 06, 2012
Middlesex-London Health Unit
Number of Local Pertussis Cases on the Rise
The Middlesex-London Health Unit, as well as other public health agencies in Ontario, Canada and the United States, has been noting increases in the number of pertussis cases. Also known as Whooping Cough, pertussis is a very contagious bacterial disease that can cause prolonged coughing. Pertussis commonly begins with symptoms that are similar to the common cold. These symptoms then progress to coughing spells that can last for weeks to months. The coughing spells can end in a high-pitched “whooping” sound which occurs when an infected child or infant inhales after coughing; coughing spells may also be followed by vomiting. Pertussis is a particular concern for babies, who can develop complications such as pneumonia and seizures. Pertussis can be fatal in young babies.
In August, 14 cases of pertussis were confirmed in the Middlesex London region, 57% of whom were not vaccinated. The cases range in age from babies to adults under 50 years.
“With the return to school, a larger number of children are going to be spending significant time in closer proximity to each other, so there will be more opportunities for germs to spread in the community,” says Bryna Warshawsky, Associate Medical Officer of Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “Given how easily pertussis can spread, it’s important to be vaccinated. The whooping cough vaccine is included in routine vaccinations for children and adolescents and is also recommended for adults. This is particularly important for adults who will be around young babies, as these babies are at highest risk for complications from pertussis.”
People with a cough that lasts longer than expected or ends in a whoop or vomiting are advised to see their health care provider. Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics which may help improve symptoms if given early in the course of the illness and may also decrease the spread of the infection.
Pertussis vaccine is recommended for all adults and has been provided free of charge since August 2011. It is given in combination with the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines, but can be given even if the adult is not due for their next tetanus shot. The vaccine is available from health care providers and the Health Unit’s Immunization Clinics in London and Strathroy. The London clinic, located at 50 King Street downtown, is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. and has extended hours on the first and third Wednesday of each month until 7:00 pm. The Strathroy immunization clinic is located at the Health Unit’s office in the Kenwick Mall located at 51 Front Street; it is open the first Tuesday of every month from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm.
Communications Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit
519-663-5317 ext 2469