By J.W. Schnarr
Parents are being asked to watch their children for signs of whooping cough after the disease has been confirmed to be circulating in the communities of Taber, Grassy Lake, and Bow Island.
Alberta Health Services has confirmed children who attended Taber Bible Camp last week may have been exposed to whooping cough (also known as pertussis) germs.
Whooping cough is a disease caused by bacteria that infects the lungs and airways. Pertussis causes serious coughing fits that can lead to choking or vomiting.
The coughing can be so intense that a “whooping” sound happens when an infected person tries to catch his or her breath. This is why pertussis is commonly known as whooping cough.
Whooping cough is spread easily through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Children can also be infected by rubbing their eyes or mouth after they touch toys or objects handled by a person infected with whooping cough. The pertussis-causing bacteria can live for two to five days on dry objects like clothes, glass or paper.
Infants and children with whooping cough will have very bad coughing spells that can make it hard for a child to breathe or eat, for weeks or months at a time.
Whooping cough can also cause pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death.
If you or your child has symptoms of pertussis, please stay home from school, work, or other public places or social activities.
Common symptoms include:
Starts as a cold with runny nose, sneezing, fever up to 39.4 degrees Celsius, and mild cough;
cough becomes gradually more severe with repetitive coughing spells followed by a whooping sound when the child is breathing in, and vomiting following a coughing spell;
older children and adults may experience milder symptoms, such as a prolonged cough with or without coughing fits and no whoop.
Children under one year of age are especially vulnerable, and may need hospitalization to recover from the illness. Women in their last trimester of pregnancy are at risk of spreading the illness to their newborn babies.
Whooping cough is treatable with antibiotics, and it is important for local residents to contact their doctor if they suspect someone in their family has contracted the illness.
If you or your child is diagnosed with pertussis, stay home from school, work, church, public places, and other social gatherings for five days after beginning antibiotics. If treatment is not started, stay home for 21 days after symptoms begin.
Pertussis can be prevented or severity reduced through immunization. Please contact the public health clinic to inquire if children are fully immunized. To protect newborn babies, it is recommended that women in their third trimester receive a booster dose of the immunization if they are not immunized.
Parents can call HealthLink (811) if they become ill before going out in public, either to a hospital or to their local clinic.
In Taber, contact the public health office at 403-223-7230 and in Vauxhall at 403-223-7229.