SUDBURY – Public Health Sudbury and Districts is responding to increased reports of pertussis infections (whooping cough) in its service area of Greater Sudbury and Sudbury and Manitoulin districts. A total of 12 cases have been reported to date for 2019.
The presence of pertussis is likely much higher than reported as the infection is underreported, especially among adolescents and adults who often don’t seek health care for their symptoms. These individuals are an important source of infection for others.
Pertussis is a bacterial disease that is prevented by a vaccine. Infections tend to occur in cycles with peaks occurring every two to five years. The last local peak in pertussis was 2015 for about a year. A total of 27 cases were reported during that time.
“Vaccination against pertussis is a key to protecting individuals and reducing the spread of the infection within the community,” said Karly McGibbon, a public health nurse in the Control of Infectious Diseases program. “Community members are asked to protect against infection by ensuring they are up-to-date with their pertussis vaccination,” said Ms. McGibbon.
In Ontario, the pertussis vaccine is offered free of charge to infants, children, and adolescents as part of the routine vaccination program (Ministry of Health and Long Term Care) and is required for school attendance. One free lifetime dose is offered to adults over the age of 18. The pertussis vaccine is also recommended for priority groups of adults such as health care workers and pregnant women (in each pregnancy).
Pertussis is a very contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and the throat. It is spread from person to person through coughing, especially in the first two weeks of infection. Children less than seven years of age who do not have immunity through vaccination are particularly vulnerable. Babies under one year of age and pregnant women in their third trimester are at greater risk of severe illness.
Fully vaccinated children or adults can still get the infection due to decreased immunity over time, but if they do get infected they generally experience less severe illness with fewer complications. Having a pertussis infection in the past does not provide protection from future infections.
Public Health Sudbury and Districts reminds everyone of the importance of vaccination to protect yourself, your family, and the community against pertussis and other vaccine-preventable diseases. If you are unsure of your vaccination status or that of your children, please discuss this with your health care provider or visit Immunization Connect. The pertussis vaccine is available in the community through a primary health care provider or walk-in clinic.
For more information about pertussis and vaccination, visit phsd.ca or call Public Health Sudbury and Districts at 705-522-9200 (toll-free 1-866-522-9200) ext. 301.