The city of Yorkton is seeing a cluster of whooping cough cases.
Since August, the Sunrise Health Region has confirmed seven whooping cough cases in Yorkton, with another dozen people showing symptoms. The city usually sees one case or less in a year.
“If you have that many cases – confirmed cases – means that there could be many other cases,” said medical health officer Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a very contagious, serious bacterial infection.
“What we are most concerned about is the newborns and the infants, in general. The babies who are less than one year old, those are the ones that are very likely to have serious complications from pertussis, and also to die of those complications.”
So far, Yorkton hasn’t seen any cases in children younger than one year old. The case have been in people from one year to 45 years old, with most of them being seen in teenagers.
Dr. Nsungu said the health region wants to make sure people know about the symptoms of whooping cough so they can keep an eye out for them.
“A very particular sign of pertussis is that the patient will have coughing spells. And towards the end of that coughing spell, they will sort of run short of breath and there will be a whooping sound,” Dr. Nsungu explained. However, he added that babies may not have the distinct whooping sound as part of their symptoms.
Other symptoms include sneezing, runny nose and a fever, along with the coughing spells that often end in vomiting.
As a precaution, the health region is asking people who have experienced coughs for longer than two weeks to see their family doctors. It is also reminding parents to make sure their children’s vaccinations are up to date.
The vaccine that prevents pertussis is given at two, four, six and 18 months.
“It is not until around six months of age that they start developing immunity against pertussis,” Dr. Nsungu explained. That’s why, for the time being, expectant mothers – 26 weeks pregnant or more – who live, work or go to school in Yorkton are also asked to get the vaccine regardless of their previous immunization status.
“The idea here is that we want those women to have enough antibodies before they deliver so that they can transmit those antibodies to the baby before the baby is born, in such a way that the baby will be born with some immunity.”