Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut April 12, 2017 - 11:45 am

Whooping cough outbreak over, say Nunavut health officials

First cases appeared almost a year ago

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Nunavut's health department says the territory's whooping cough outbreak has finally ended, almost a year after the first cases were confirmed in Pond Inlet, in May 2016. (FILE IMAGE)
Nunavut's health department says the territory's whooping cough outbreak has finally ended, almost a year after the first cases were confirmed in Pond Inlet, in May 2016. (FILE IMAGE)

Almost a year after the first appearance of the infection, Nunavut health officials say the territory’s whooping cough outbreak has finally ended.

Though the bacterial infection is diagnosed from time to time in Nunavut communities, health officials first flagged four cases of whooping cough in Pond Inlet in May 2016.

That number had grown to 13 cases by the end of the month before it began to spread to Iqaluit and other communities in the Qikiqtani region.

By the fall of 2016, Nunavut’s health department counted more than 100 cases of whooping cough, sometimes called pertussis, in 11 communities throughout the Qikiqtani and Kivalliq regions.

But on April 12, the Government of Nunavut’s health department declared the outbreak over.

“I wish to thank residents of Nunavut for being proactive, getting immunized and helping to stop the spread of pertussis,” said Nunavut’s chief medical officer, Dr. Kim Barker, in a release.

“I also extend my sincere appreciation to our dedicated health care staff throughout Nunavut; they worked tirelessly to immunize and care for patients with pertussis.”

Part of the health department’s efforts to put a stop to the respiratory infection included a school-based campaign at the end of 2016 to immunize all Nunavummiut students from Grades 6 through 9 in December 2016, before students left to go on Christmas holidays.

Whooping cough is a highly-contagious bacterial infection marked by a cough, followed by high-pitched inhalation. The infection can be spread to anyone, but the most severe cases of the infection are seen in children under the age of one.

The GN’s health officials continue to encourage Nunavummiut to get immunized against pertussis, a vaccination that is free and available at community health centres.

Although the outbreak is officially over, health officials are encouraging Nunavummiut to remain vigilant against whooping cough.

Symptoms include:

• a cough followed by an rapid air intake which resembles a “whoop,” or a funny sounding cough;

• vomiting after coughing or not being able to breath after coughing; and

• high fever

Parents should take their children to a local health centre immediately if they notice any of those symptoms.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says between 1,000 and 3,000 Canadians are infected with whooping cough every year.

Babies under a year of age of one are at the highest risk. Without treatment, the infection can last for weeks or even months, and can cause brain damage and in the most severe cases, death.

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