Health warning issued to Whistler over whooping cough in region 

Free vaccines available to vulnerable groups as number of cases rise

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Vancouver Coastal Health has issued a warning to parents in the Sea to Sky corridor about the increase of cases of pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

Almost 40 cases have occurred in the Vancouver Coastal Health region since January, including Powell River, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky, Bella Bella, Bella Coola. First Nations communities have also been impacted.

A letter has gone out to schools and parents from Dr. Paul Martiquet, the medical health officer of coastal health services, that describes the outbreak, what to look for and what measures to take if to prevent pertussis or treat it. In the letter, Martiquet describes 40 cases as "a large increase." This follows an outbreak in the Fraser Valley, which has seen over 150 cases.

Because of this increase, Vancouver Coastal Health is making free pertussis vaccine available for the following residents of the region if they haven't had a shot against pertussis in the last five years:

1. All pregnant women and their partners

2. Everyone in contact with babies 18 months of age and younger

3. All aboriginal people

Vaccine is available from family doctors, public health clinics, and some pharmacists.

children's immunization records should be reviewed to make sure they are up to date. Children usually get pertussis vaccine at two, four, six, and 18 months of age, at four to six years of age, and in Grade 9.

With the current outbreak, it is even more important babies and children get their shots on time as babies less than one year old can get very sick or even die from it.

Pertussis starts like a cold with sneezing, runny nose, a low fever and a mild cough. Severe coughing spells start within a week or two. The cough often ends with a whoop or crowing sound when the person breathes in.

Adults and teens usually do not make the whooping sound when they cough, making diagnosis more difficult. Doctors or nurses can do a swab test from the nose to confirm it.

Coughing spells are often severe enough to cause gagging or throwing up and may last more than two months.

Treatment with antibiotics cuts down the time pertussis germs can spread from three weeks to five days. Children with pertussis must stay home from school until they have taken antibiotics for five days.

If you or your children develop early symptoms of whooping cough, please see your family physician or nurse practitioner.

More information is available at www.vch.ca or at www.healthlinkbc.ca.

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