Outbreak of Whooping Cough on Haida Gwaii.

  • May. 7, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Of the 22 confirmed cases of Pertussis (Whooping Cough) on the North Coast, 20 of them are on the islands, according to a Northern Health press release this week. That number is likely higher however, as not every case gets swabbed and tested, said Jane Boutette, Northern Health’s Public Health Nursing Manager for Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii.”It’s really scary,” said expectant mother Erica Ryan-Gagne. Ms Ryan-Gagne is in her third trimester of pregnancy and found out from her midwife on May 2 that she had been exposed to Whooping Cough. She was immediately prescribed antibiotics and said she is now just hoping the baby, which is due next week, will not be born until the five-day cycle of antibiotics is over.”It can be fatal for a newborn,” she said, and described herself upset and angry with the situation. “I wish people were more aware of how this affects other people,” she said, “it’s your choice whether you immunize or not, but it’s not all about you and your own little world.”Ms Ryan-Gagne said the pertussis outbreak also affects how the new baby will be welcomed home, as she is going to have to be very careful about visitors once the baby is born. Ms Boutette said the people Northern Health worries about most are women in their third trimester of pregnancy and infants under one-year-old.”We’re asking anyone who has signs or symptoms to go to a clinic, get swabbed and notify Northern Health if they’ve been in contact with infants or a pregnant woman. We’ll then contact them and we can offer prophylactic antibiotics. If you have a cough, try your best to isolate yourself,” she said. “As a new grandmother to a gorgeous granddaughter who already has struggles with growth I am VERY concerned about the pertussis outbreak on the island,” said Port Clement’s Cheryl Bennett, who pointed out that infants under four months of age aren’t normally immunized for pertussis. “I feel like we need to keep her at home away from all the sickness, away from people who could be contagious… if you get tested, and it comes back positive, please stay at home for 5 days.” Ms Bennett’s granddaughter was immunized early because of the outbreak.According to Northern Health, the best way to protect children and the community against pertussis is immunization. The pertussis vaccine is included in the normal vaccine program available to Canadian children.Ms Boutette said infants are typically immunized at 8-weeks-old, but when an outbreak such as this occurs, babies as young as 6-weeks-old qualify. She added that concerned women who are pregnant or other adults are eligible for a pertussis booster shot. Currently there are no hospitalizations on Haida Gwaii due to the pertussis increase, but Northern Health is bringing in extra nursing support to provide immunizations, and is exploring other supports that might be necessary.Pertussis is a highly infectious respiratory bacterial condition that affects all ages. In unimmunized infants, Pertussis can be a more serious disease that starts as a common cold progressing into a cough. The cough can become severe, with or without the whooping sound and may be accompanied by gasping, gagging, shortness of breathing and vomiting as well as pneumonia. There may also be a mild, associated fever. Pregnant women are at risk if they are in the last three months of their pregnancy as whooping cough can cause serious disease and complications to the fetus.Northern Health is encouraging people to contact their public health office in Queen Charlotte, Masset Sandspit, and Port Clements or their local health centre in Old Massett or Skidegate to discuss their need for the vaccine or to be swabbed for Pertussis.

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