Whooping cough outbreak declared in N.W.T.'s Deh Cho region

·2 min read

The N.W.T.'s Chief Public Health Officer has declared an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, in the Deh Cho region after a total of seven cases were confirmed in two communities.

The cases were confirmed in Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson, according to an advisory issued Wednesday morning.

Last week, officials advised of four people that had been diagnosed in Fort Simpson.

Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that affects the lungs and respiratory tract. It's particularly dangerous to children under one year of age.

This is the second year in a row the territory has declared a pertussis outbreak. An outbreak declared in January 2020 in the Yellowknife and Tłı̨chǫ regions led to at least 55 confirmed cases.

Residents of Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson are being asked to confirm their pertussis vaccinations as soon as possible by contacting their health centre, the advisory states. While the vaccine is safe and effective, the advisory says, immunity from it may fade over time.

Boosters are typically offered in Grade 7, and then every 10 years as an adult. Pregnant women are also advised to get a vaccine between 27 and 32 weeks of their pregnancy, regardless of their last dose, in order to protect the newborn.

According to the advisory, the first symptoms of pertussis appear seven to 10 days after exposure, but may take as long as 21 days to develop. They include:

  • mild fever;

  • runny nose;

  • red watery eyes;

  • sneezing, and

  • mild cough.

The cough becomes worse about 10 days after exposure, "leading to severe, repeated and forceful coughing spells that end with a whooping sound before the next breath," the advisory says. The cough tends to be worse at night and may lead to vomiting or difficulty breathing, and babies and small children may turn blue.

Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to someone with pertussis or is showing symptoms is asked to contact their health centre as soon as possible.

Anyone confirmed to have pertussis is strongly advised to stay at home, and in particular away from infants, young children, women in the last three months of pregnancy, and large public gatherings until their antibiotic treatment is completed.