Whooping cough outbreak declared in Yellowknife and Tlicho region

The chief public health officer of the Northwest Territories has declared a whooping cough outbreak in Yellowknife and in Tlicho communities. 

There are 20 lab-confirmed cases of whooping cough in those regions as of Wednesday, according to a news release sent Wednesday afternoon.

Whooping cough — also called pertussis — is a contagious infection in the lungs caused by bacteria in the mouth, nose and throat, according to the public health advisory. It's most dangerous for infants and children under one year old, states the release.

Last month, the Health Department announced eight confirmed cases of whooping cough in the Tlicho region. Those cases were "isolated and treated," the department said at the time.

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • a cough that lasts longer than a week
  • a cough followed by an unusual sound that sounds like "whoop"
  • trouble breathing
  • vomiting after coughing
  • coughing that is worse at night
  • a high fever (39 C and above) that lasts more than three days

Vaccine available 

Whooping cough is preventable with a vaccine, according to the department. Residents can get the free vaccine from their health care provider.

The whooping cough vaccine is safe and effective, states the N.W.T. Health Department.

Immunity may fade over time, so booster shots are offered every 10 years. Pregnant women should get an immunization between 27 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, regardless of when they last had a booster shot, says the advisory. 

The Health Department said people who suspect they have whooping cough should notify their health care provider and stay at home.

In 2015, there were 21 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the Northwest Territories: including in the Tlicho region, Hay River, Yellowknife and the Beaufort Delta region. At the time, the office of the chief public health officer said the majority of those cases were linked to travel outside the N.W.T.