Whooping cough warning from health unit

Southwestern Public Health, in a statement issued Wednesday, March 8, urged parents to ensure their children were vaccinated against pertussis, and to watch for symptoms and seek medical attention if needed, given a recent “dramatic rise” in cases in Elgin, St. Thomas and Elgin.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ninh Tran said, “Our region has seen 82 confirmed cases of pertussis between Jan. 1, 2022, and Feb. 28, 2023. This represents about 40 percent of the provincial total from that time period.

“Combine this with the number of children who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated and I am concerned in particular for the youngest members of our community.”

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, was one of the most common childhood diseases and a major cause of childhood mortality in the 20th century, but the development of a vaccine and its routine administration into children caused case numbers and deaths to drop, the health unit said.

Symptoms start with a runny nose or nasal congestion, sneezing, a mild cough and a mild fever.

The cough, which can last from two to eight weeks, gets progressively worse and can lead to vomiting or trouble breathing and coughing up mucus, and is often characterized by a loud “whooping” sound when a child inhales after a coughing spell.

Pertussis could be treated with antibiotics and, after five days, a child would no longer be contagious, Dr. Tran said.