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Whooping Cough Outbreak Declared in Southern Health-Santé Sud

Manitoba Health advises that a cluster of whooping cough has now been declared an outbreak in Southern Health-Santé Sud, as cases continue to be reported. As of June 23, 154 confirmed or probable cases have been reported to Manitoba Health since January, with 152 reported from Southern Health-Santé Sud, an area of Southern Manitoba where over 216,000 residents reside. 

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a vaccine-preventable contagious infection of the lungs and airways. Caused by the bacteria bordetella pertussis, the disease which happens year-round everywhere in the world is spread through respiratory droplets when coughing or sneezing and is most contagious during the initial stages of illness. 

Initially, symptoms are similar to the common cold and usually show up seven to 10 days after exposure. The illness often starts with a mild fever, runny nose and a cough. It can lead to serious coughing fits lasting one to 10 weeks. The coughing may cause difficulty breathing, choking and vomiting. Infants may also have poor feeding. Whooping cough can affect people of all ages. Infants aged one year or younger are at greatest risk of severe complications, including periods of stalled breathing, pneumonia, seizures, brain swelling and death. Pregnant people in their third trimester are also at higher risk.

Of the cases detected in Manitoba, the age range consists of the following: 

  • 30 infants aged one year or younger;
  • 80 cases in children aged one to nine;
  • 24 cases in children aged 10 to 19; and
  • 20 cases in adults.

The outbreak includes 78 female and 76 male cases, resulting in 55 related visits to emergency departments and two admissions to pediatric intensive care. No deaths have been reported.

According to Manitoba Health, the vaccine is safe and effective, and immunization is the best way to prevent infection, reduce the risk of severe symptoms, and help limit spread. 

In Southern Health-Santé Sud, health-care providers and public health teams are continuing to build relationships with families following service disruptions and other effects of the pandemic. It continues to reach out directly to families to determine if they have questions, needs information, or face any barriers to immunization. Public health offices have offered evening clinic appointments and additional appointment slots to make immunizations more convenient and accessible for families. Posters have been distributed to child-care facilities in the region, encouraging families to reach out to public health to ensure children are up to date on immunizations.

Parents, caregivers and pregnant people who are uncertain or have questions or concerns about immunizations are encouraged to speak to their health-care provider or public health office. More information is available by calling Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll-free).

People who have symptoms of whooping cough should see their health-care provider. Infected individuals may be prescribed antibiotics and should stay home and avoid close contact with others until treatment is completed. This can help prevent further spread of infection.

Whooping cough is a reportable disease in Manitoba. The reported cases vary yearly and typically peak every two to five years. For a group of cases to be considered an outbreak, there must be a higher number of cases reported in a specific area than expected over a specific period.

Additional Resources

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