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Seven cases of pertussis – or whooping cough – have been identified in two communities the Dehcho region and an outbreak has been declared, a spokesperson for the Office Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) announced today.

Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories and  Liliana Canadic, chief operating officer for the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, pictured last year. The OCPHO announced an outbreak of seven whooping cough cases in the Dehcho region on Jan. 13. 
NNSL file photo

The OCPHO sent a media advisory on Jan. 13 stating that cases have been found in Fort Simpson and Jean Marie River.

“Residents in Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson should confirm their Pertussis vaccination as soon as possible by contacting their health centre,” the advisory states.

On Jan. 4, an advisory was issued by the OCPHO stating that there were four cases in Fort Simpson.

Wednesday’s advisory includes those cases plus three additional ones.

According to the department, pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that affects the lungs and respiratory tract and is particularly dangerous to infants who are less than one year of age.

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The advisory states that vaccination is the best way to protect loved ones from pertussis spreading.

“The pertussis-containing vaccine is safe and effective, although immunity from the pertussis vaccine may fade over time,” states the advisory. “An adolescent booster dose is offered in Grade 7 and every 10 years as an adult.”

The advisory recommends that pregnant women get a pertussis-containing vaccine between 27 and 32 weeks of their pregnancy, “regardless of their last dose.”

“This booster in pregnancy protects the newborn by protecting their mother in pregnancy,” the advisory states.

“The vaccine is free of charge and is part of the routine NWT Immunization Schedule.”

Symptoms 

Pertussis can be identified through its first symptoms which are usually mild and appear after seven to 10 days exposure.

Additionally, it can take up to 21 days to develop.

Some symptoms include mild fever, runny nose, red and watery eyes, sneezing and a mild cough.

About 10 days after the initial symptoms, the cough becomes worse, leading to severe, repeated and forceful coughing spells that end with a whooping sound before the next breath.

The cough tends to be worse at night and may result in vomiting and difficulty breathing.

Babies and small children may turn blue.

Antibiotics 

Antibiotics reduce the infectiousness of pertussis although the symptoms may persist for even months.

If you think you may have been exposed to someone with pertussis or have a cough concerning for pertussis, you should call the health centre or your health care provider as soon as possible.

If you have pertussis, it is important to stay at home and away from infants, young children, women in their last three months of pregnancy and large public gatherings until you complete antibiotics.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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