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December 22, 2005
Whooping cough advisory issued to parents
  
Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, is issuing an advisory to parents of young children to be aware of the symptoms of whooping cough.

There has been a significant increase in the number of cases of whooping cough (pertussis) reported in Toronto since early November. There have been 54 cases in this period and of these 40 were children less than five years of age. There were 62 cases reported in the previous ten months of the year.

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 violent coughing spells; onset occurs within three weeks of contact with an infected individual
  • the 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
  • there may be moments when breathing stops completely (apnea) and the heart rate slows, particularly in very young infants
  • the illness may last for one to two months or longer in some cases, even when treated


Children showing symptoms should see a doctor. During the holiday season, they should be taken to hospital. Antibiotic medication will reduce the risk of transmission to others and, if started early, can relieve the symptoms.

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

Advisory notices are being sent to schools and day cares. A public health alert has been sent to hospital emergency rooms and infection disease practitioners.

Dr. McKeown said this increase in cases has not been attributed to one source and may be the result of a general decline in protection from the vaccine, which wears off over time.

Whooping cough is prevented by immunization. The vaccine is normally given to children at 2,4,6, and 18 months of age, combined with vaccine for other illnesses. A booster dose is given between 4 to 6 years and again between 14 and 16 years as part of routine immunization.


Media contact:

Gil Hardy
416-338-7873


 

 

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