Island Health says there as been a case of pertussis at Keating Elementary. File photo (CBC/ Shutterstock)

Island Health says there as been a case of pertussis at Keating Elementary. File photo (CBC/ Shutterstock)

Island Health has alerted parents to a case of whooping cough (pertussis) at Keating Elementary School in Central Saanich.

Health officials are warning that students and staff at the school may have come in contact with the bacterium that causes pertussis, which is spread by coughing.

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. Pertussis can be spread during the early stages of the infection when symptoms are not severe and if it is not treated, it can be spread up to three weeks after the cough starts.

Symptoms can last for several weeks. The highly contagious respiratory disease 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 a newborn infant after birth.

Anyone who has symptoms is asked to contact their health care provider to test for pertussis bacteria. If someone is diagnosed with pertussis, antibiotic treatment is required. After five days of treatment, an individual is no longer considered infectious and can return to school or work.

Island Health is also reminding parents to ensure their children are up to date with the pertussis vaccine, which is combined with other vaccines. These immunizations are given to children during the first year of life, at 18 months and upon entering kindergarten. There is an additional booster shot when children are in Grade 9.

More information on pertussis and the vaccine can be found at Immunize BC.

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