Whooping cough cases up slightly in N.L., as officials warn about risks to infants

Newfoundland and Labrador’s top doctor is warning people to stay up to date on whooping cough vaccinations after a small increase in cases this year.The province usually sees three to four cases of the disease annually. Up to 10 cases have been reported already since January, however, prompting the province’s chief medical officer to raise the issue publicly.The increase “generally means there’s a little bit more circulating in the community than what’s presenting for care and testing,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Tuesday.While officials aren’t overly concerned about a future spike in cases, Fitzgerald said, higher infection rates place infants in particular at risk.Children under the age of one aren’t yet old enough for the whooping cough vaccine and don’t have immunity to the disease, Fitzgerald said. Infections in small children can be more severe and lead to pneumonia, neurological issues and hospitalization. Fitzgerald said parents, grandparents and caregivers should check to ensure their vaccinations are up to date.Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, causes a persistent nagging cough that’s sometimes severe enough to cause vomiting. Vaccines for the disease are offered in early childhood, during high school and in adulthood. Booster shots should be given 10 years after the high school dose, Fitzgerald said.”Immunity can wane over time,” she said. “Pertussis does circulate on a regular basis in our community.”The small increase in cases isn’t yet ringing alarm bells for undervaccination within the general population, she added, noting the province still has a vaccination rate over 90 per cent. Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.

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