Island Health is informing parents and guardians of a confirmed case of whooping cough (pertussis) at Mount Douglas Secondary School in Saanich.
According to Island Health, students and staff may have been in contact with Bordetella pertussis, the bacteria that causes the contagious disease. Pertussis is spread by coughing, sneezing or close contact, such as sharing food, drinks, cigarettes or kissing someone. Pertussis can be spread to others during the early stages of the infection when symptoms are not severe and if left untreated, it can spread up to three weeks after the cough starts.
The health authority is reminding parents and guardians to make sure their pertussis immunizations are up to date. Immunizations are normally given to children during the first year of life, at 18 months, and upon entering kindergarten. There is another additional booster shot when children are in Grade 9.
Vaccines can be received at a local public health unit or at some doctors’ offices. There are a number of pertussis vaccines available in B.C. that protect against pertussis.
The pertussis vaccines are provided in combination with other vaccines such as diphtheria, polio and tetanus and are free as part of a child’s routine immunizations. A pertussis vaccine is also available for older children and adults. A booster dose of pertussis vaccine is provided free to grade 9 students in B.C. Adults who were not immunized against pertussis as children can also get a dose of the vaccine for free. A booster dose of the pertussis vaccine is recommended for adults who were immunized in childhood but is not provided for free in B.C.
During an outbreak of pertussis, the vaccine may be provided for free to women who are 26 or more weeks pregnant to protect them and their newborns.
Pertussis begins with cold-like symptoms that may progress to a severe cough with a distinctive “whooping” sound, which may be followed by gagging and/or vomiting. Symptoms can last for several weeks. It can be very serious, particularly for infants under one year of age. Pregnant mothers in their third trimester can also be at risk as they may expose their new born infant after birth. Pertussis is treated with antibiotics. If taken during the early stages of your illness, the antibiotics help reduce the spread of infection and the length of illness.
Complications from pertussis such as pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or even death. These complications happen most often in infants under one year of age. Each year in Canada, one to three deaths occur due to pertussis, mostly in babies less than three months of age who have not been immunized.
The BC Centre for Disease Control said there were 209 cases of pertussis on Vancouver Island in 2017 and 374 in 2016.
If an individual or their family members develop symptoms as described above, they are asked to contact health care provider to test for pertussis bacteria.
Here are some public health units in the Greater Victoria area:
Esquimalt 530 Fraser Street, Victoria (250) 519-5311
Peninsula 2170 Mt. Newton X Road, Saanichton (250) 544-2400
Saanich 2nd floor, 3995 Quadra Street, Victoria (250) 519-5100
Sooke 104-6672 Wadams Way Sooke (250) 519-3487
Victoria 1947 Cook Street, Victoria (250) 388-2200
West Shore 345 Wale Road, Langford (250) 519-3490
Salt Spring Island #1 – 137 Crofton Road, Salt Spring Island (250) 538-4880