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January 11, 2007
Whooping cough advisory issued to parents
Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, has issued an advisory to parents of young children to be aware of the symptoms of whooping cough. There has been a recent significant increase in the number of cases of whooping cough (pertussis) reported to Toronto Public Health. In 2006, there were 669 cases, almost four times the number of cases in 2005.

Whooping cough is spread easily through coughing or sneezing. Infants who are not fully immunized are at greatest risk. Serious illness is very rare, but symptoms require medical attention. The illness usually takes the following course:
• a runny nose, and cough that gradually worsens (over a week or two) to severe coughing spells; illness occurs within three weeks of contact with an infected individual
• sudden attacks of severe coughing spells end in a high-pitched gasping, or “whooping” sound, and may be accompanied by loss of breath or vomiting
• the illness may lead to moments, particularly in very young infants, when breathing stops completely (apnea) and the heart rate slows
• the illness may last for two to four weeks, or longer in some cases, even when treated.

Children with symptoms should see a doctor and stay home from school or child care. Antibiotics will reduce the risk of transmission to others and, if started early, can relieve the symptoms.

An advisory notice is being sent to day cares, family physicians, paediatricians and infection disease practitioners.

Whooping cough is prevented by immunization. The vaccine is normally given to children at two, four, six, and 18 months of age, combined with vaccine for other illnesses. A booster dose is given between the age of four to six years and again between 14 and 16 years as part of routine immunization.

This increase in case reports has not been associated with an increase in severe disease. In 2006, only four individuals with whooping cough were hospitalized, and only two cases were vaccinated.

Parents can call Ontario Telehealth to speak to a nurse at any time, 1-866-797-0000.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of more than 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years Toronto has won more than 50 awards for quality and innovation in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contact:
Rishma Govani, Toronto Public Health, 416-338-7974



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