Whooping cough warning


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November 15, 2016 12:00 AM

Due to sustained high rates of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in Alberta Health Services (AHS) central zone, AHS is expanding the routine pertussis immunization program in towns within that area.
The program offers pertussis vaccines to women in their third trimester of each pregnancy, regardless of previous pertussis immunization, so their infants are protected when they’re born.
Digby Horne, medical health officer for the central zone, said there could be several reasons for the sustained rates of the illness in the jurisdiction.
“One is that some people are not immunized, some people are incompletely immunized and also the effectiveness of the vaccine seems to wane over time,” he said. 
“It’s around 90 per cent effective right after immunization, but four or five years out it seems to drop to around, some estimates are around 70 per cent, that’s American data, but the basic point is, yes, there seems to be some waning immunity.”
Offering vaccines to women in the third trimester of pregnancy is an important step in protecting infants, who are the most likely to develop severe complications from pertussis.
Women in the central zone who are 26 or more weeks pregnant are encouraged to call their local community health centre to set up an appointment for the pertussis immunization.
Horne added physician and obstetrician offices may also offer pertussis vaccines to pregnant women, but patients should call ahead to confirm availability.
It should also be noted that pertussis vaccines won’t be offered through influenza immunization clinics that are currently underway.
“We know that rates of pertussis immunization in the central zone are lower than other zones of AHS,” said Horne.
“We all play a part in protecting each other. Please get immunized.”
Pertussis is a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that lasts for weeks and can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death.
Roughly two-thirds of the pertussis cases confirmed to date in the central zone involved individuals who were unimmunized or under-immunized for their age.
AHS encourages all caregivers and family members of young infants to ensure they are up-to-date on all vaccines.

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