Nunavut's whooping cough outbreak leads to change in prevention plans

Nunavut's whooping cough outbreak leads to change in prevention plans

The Nunavut department of health has made two major changes in prevention after a whooping cough outbreak that infected 154 people in 11 communities. 

Vaccinations to protect against pertussis will now be given to pregnant women in their third trimester and children will receive their boosters sooner, in Grade 6 rather than Grade 9.

The recent outbreak was declared over Wednesday, after the last new case was reported more than five weeks ago.

"An outbreak is declared over when two incubation periods have passed," said Dr. Kim Barker, chief medical officer of health for Nunavut.

"For pertussis that's typically 21 days from the onset of when you become infected to when you might show symptoms. So that's 21 days and then we double it so that becomes 42 days, so that's how we decided to declare the outbreak over."

Since the outbreak began in Pond Inlet in May 2016, there were 154 confirmed whooping cough cases in 11 communities. In the massive campaign to fight the illness, more than 6,000 people were vaccinated. 

Barker said there were some challenges in stopping the outbreak due to diagnosis delays. Samples had to be sent south for testing. 

However Barker said it's "not unusual for [a whooping cough outbreak] to last up to a year, just because of how long it takes to declare it over."

Even with the outbreak over, there could still be an occasional case of whooping cough in the future.