© Guardian file photo
Dr. Heather Morrison
Prince Edward Island is currently experiencing an outbreak of whooping cough, says Dr. Heather Morrison, chief public health officer.
There are currently six confirmed cases of pertussis, known as whooping cough, in Prince Edward Island, while some additional potential cases are still being confirmed.
“Although Prince Edward Island has not had an outbreak of pertussis in a number of years, there has been a recurrence of high rates of the illness in North America in recent years,” said Morrison.
Whooping cough is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, fever, and mild cough, which over a period of one to two weeks worsen to include serious coughing spells. Often the cough ends with a whooping sound and can cause the person to vomit. It is spread easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing and close contact.
Although anyone can contract whooping cough, it is of particular concern in newborns as they can become extremely ill and develop serious complications.
Infants in Prince Edward Island are routinely immunized against whooping cough at ages two, four, six and 18 months. It is only after these four doses are given that an infant has received the best possible protection against the illness. Booster doses are also offered at four years of age and in Grade 9.
In addition, Prince Edward Island offers a free booster dose to parents of newborns and any close contacts whose immunization is not current. A booster dose of this immunization in adulthood is also recommended for all persons.
"Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease and the best way to protect yourself and your family is through immunization," states a news release from Morrison.
“The majority of Islanders follow the routine schedule of immunization; this protects not only themselves from getting the disease, but also helps to protect the general public by preventing future spread,” said Morrison. “Families are encouraged to ensure their immunization is up to date.”
Anyone exhibiting symptoms of whooping cough is encouraged to contact their health care provider.