News

Whooping cough alert in Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley

A whooping cough alert in the eastern Fraser Valley has been issued by the Fraser Health Authority.

Since August, there have been more than 80 cases of whooping cough (also called pertussis) reported in the Hope region, health officials said, and recently cases have been seen in the Agassiz-Harrison area as well.

A vaccination clinic will start in Chilliwack on Jan. 23, and clinics that have already started in Hope will be expanded to Agassiz on Jan. 19 and to Harrison Hot Springs.

"The best protection against pertussis is to get vaccinated," Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Fraser Health's medical health officer, said in a news release.

"Pertussis in very young children can lead to hospitalization and even death," he said.

Parents are urged to make sure their children are fully immunized, and to get free booster shots for adults in regular contact with children.

"The vaccine that people get as children only offers protection for 4-10 years, so there are many people without adequate coverage," health officials said.

Adults who have not had a booster shot in the last five years are asked to call their local health unit, or their doctor to get the free vaccine.

The phone number of the Chilliwack health unit is 604-702-4900.

The Agassiz health unit number is 604-793-7160.

The Hope health unit number is 604-860-7630.

Whooping cough is a very contagious disease that spreads easily through the air. Symptoms are similar to those of a cold - sneezing, runny nose, low fever, mild cough - but over the next week or two the coughing gets worse, leading to longer spells that often end with a whoop or crowing sound when the infected person breathes in.

"The coughing may be so bad that it makes a person gag or throw up," health officials said. "Sometimes a thick, clear mucous is spit out. This cough can last up to a month or two, and happens more at night."

If your child develops symptoms, call your doctor right away. Your child may be examined in an isolation room so others are not exposed. Bring immunization records with you.

A pertussis vaccine is usually given to children at age two months, along with vaccines for diptheria and tetanus in a single shot. A booster shot is recommended for teens and people older than 10 years. Any adult or health care professional in contact with a baby aged less than one year, and whose last pertussis vaccination was five or more years ago, is eligible for a free booster shot.

For more information about pertussis call HealthLink BC at 811 or go online to www.healthlinkbc.ca and follow the Health Topics link.

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