Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Important Information on Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

For any further information on whooping cough, or other communicable diseases, contact your community health nurse or nearest public health unit.

Don't know where your nearest Public Health Unit is located? Public Health Unit Finder: http://www.immunizebc.ca/finder

Click on www.HealthLinkBC.ca or call 8-1-1 for non-emergency health information and services in BC.


Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately. If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a serious infection of the airways caused by pertussis bacteria (germs). People of any age can get pertussis. Young children who have not been immunized get sicker than older children and adults. Pertussis can cause complications such as pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or even death. These complications happen most often in infants under 1 year of age. Each year in Canada 1 to 3 deaths occur due to pertussis, mostly in babies less than 3 months of age, who have not been immunized.

Pertussis Vaccine

There are a number of pertussis vaccines available in B.C. that protect against pertussis. The pertussis vaccines are provided in combination with other vaccines such as diphtheria, polio and tetanus and are free as part of your child's routine immunizations. A pertussis vaccine is also available for older children and adults. Since the protection provided by the pertussis vaccines given in childhood lasts between 4 to 10 years, a booster dose of pertussis vaccine is provided free to grade 9 students in B.C. Adults who were not immunized against pertussis as children can also get a dose of the vaccine for free.

A booster dose of the pertussis vaccine is recommended for adults who were immunized in childhood. This dose is not provided for free in B.C. but may be available at no cost during an outbreak of pertussis.

If you are not eligible for a free pertussis vaccine it is available for purchase at pharmacies and travel health clinics. The Public Health Agency of Canada has a list of travel health clinics in BC: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/yf-fj/clinic-clinique/bc-cb-eng.php

For more information about pertussis vaccines see HealthLink BC Files:

#18c Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis Vaccine

#105 Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio and Haemophilus Influenzae type B (DTaP-HB-IPV-HIB) Vaccine

Information below from Healthlinkbc.ca: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile15c.stm


What is pertussis?

How does pertussis spread?

What are the symptoms?

Is there a treatment?

Home Treatment

How can you prevent whooping cough?

Partner Websites

To learn more about pertussis in your area, visit our partner websites below:

Fraser Health
Interior Health
Island Health
Northern Health
Vancouver Coastal

BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. They provide provincial and national leadership in public health through surveillance, detection, prevention and consultation. They also provide direct diagnostic and treatment services to people with diseases that may affect the health of the public. To learn more about measles and the pertussis vaccine, visit the web pages listed below.

Pertussis

Pertussis Vaccine

Immunize BC

ImmunizeBC works to improve the health of British Columbians and reduce the number of infections by vaccine-preventable diseases by providing information on immunizations to individuals, families, and health care providers. Immunization can save lives. Learn more about common vaccines, who should get them, and why it is so important to get all of your vaccines on time.

Immunize BC

Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

The Public Health Agency of Canada is the Federal Agency responsible for promoting health, preventing and controlling chronic diseases and injuries, preventing and controlling infectious diseases, and preparing and responding to public health emergencies. For more information about pertussis, including how it spreads and how it can be prevented, visit the web page listed below.

Pertussis


What is pertussis?

PDF - English

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a serious infection of the airways caused by pertussis bacteria (germs). People of any age can get pertussis. Young children who have not been immunized get sicker than older children and adults. Pertussis can cause complications such as pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or even death. These complications happen most often in infants under 1 year of age. Each year in Canada 1 to 3 deaths occur due to pertussis, mostly in babies less than 3 months of age, who have not been immunized.

Pertussis Vaccine

There are a number of pertussis vaccines available in B.C. that protect against pertussis. The pertussis vaccines are provided in combination with other vaccines such as diphtheria, polio and tetanus and are free as part of your child's routine immunizations. A pertussis vaccine is also available for older children and adults. Since the protection provided by the pertussis vaccines given in childhood lasts between 4 to 10 years, a booster dose of pertussis vaccine is provided free to grade 9 students in B.C. Adults who were not immunized against pertussis as children can also get a dose of the vaccine for free. A booster dose of the pertussis vaccine is recommended for adults who were immunized in childhood. This dose is not provided for free in B.C. but may be available at no cost during an outbreak of pertussis.

For more information about pertussis vaccines see HealthLink BC Files:

#18c Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis Vaccine

#105 Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio and Haemophilus Influenzae type B (DTaP-HB-IPV-HIB) Vaccine

How does pertussis spread?

Pertussis spreads easily when an infected person coughs, sneezes or has close contact with others. Sharing food, drinks or cigarettes, or kissing someone who has the pertussis bacteria can also put you at risk. A person with pertussis who does not get treatment can spread the germs to others for up to 3 weeks after the cough starts.

What are the symptoms?

Pertussis starts like a common cold with symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, mild fever and a mild cough. Over the next 2 weeks, the cough gets worse, leading to severe, repeated, and forceful coughing spells that often end with a whooping sound before the next breath. The cough of pertussis can last several months and occurs more often at night. The cough can make a person gag or spit out mucous, and make it hard to take a breath. In babies, pertussis can cause periods of apnea in which their breathing is interrupted. Babies less than 6 months old, teenagers, and adults may not make the whooping sound. Therefore, anyone that could have been exposed to pertussis and who has a cough that lasts more than 1 week, should see a doctor or health care provider.

Is there a treatment?

Pertussis is treated with antibiotics, which help reduce the spread of infection and the duration of illness if taken during the very early stage of the illness. People at high risk of serious illness who are in close contact with someone with pertussis can be given an antibiotic to prevent the disease. This includes infants less than 1 year of age and pregnant women in the last 3 months of pregnancy, as well as all of their household and daycare contacts. People who have or may have pertussis should not have contact with babies or young children until they have been properly tested and/or treated for pertussis. If you have been in contact with a person who has pertussis, you should call your doctor or health care provider for more information.

Home Treatment

After seeing a health care provider, the following home treatment tips may help you to be more comfortable while you rest and recover. Stay quiet and calm to help prevent coughing. Avoid smoke, dust, sudden noises, lights, and other unnecessary stimulation that may trigger coughing. Have frequent small drinks of fluid, and make sure to get enough to eat, as coughing requires a lot of energy. If humidity helps ease coughing, use a cool mist humidifier in the room. If humidity worsens the cough, avoid it. Dry, hot, or polluted air may worsen coughing.

If you start taking the antibiotics when you first get whooping cough, the disease may not last as long. Family members and other close contacts may be prescribed antibiotics before they have any symptoms. Babies, especially those younger than 4 months, usually are treated in the hospital. This allows the doctor to see how well the baby deals with and recovers from coughing spells. It also makes it easier for the baby to get extra oxygen and other care if needed.

 To avoid spreading the illness:

  • Children with whooping cough need to take antibiotics for at least 5 days before going back to daycare or school. If your child didn't take antibiotics, wait 21 days after the start of symptoms before sending your child to school or daycare.
  • Adults or teens with whooping cough need to take antibiotics for at least 5 days before being near young children or going to work at a school, a daycare centre, or a health facility.
  • If your child has whooping cough:

  • • Create a quiet, calm, restful environment.
    • Control possible triggers of coughing, such as smoke, dust, sudden noises or lights, and changes in temperature.
    • Give your child frequent, small sips of fluids and nutritious foods.
    • Use a humidifier Click here to see more information. in your child's room. But watch closely to see its effect. Sometimes humidity makes coughing spells worse, in which case it should be avoided.
    • Have your child who is age 1 year or older lie on his or her side or stomach rather than on the back. If your baby is younger than 1 year old, talk to your baby's doctor about the best way to position your child.

  • Many of these same tips will help if you're an adult with whooping cough. Make sure you get enough fluids, avoid triggers like smoke and dust, and consider using a humidifier.

    Over-the-counter medicines, such as cough syrups and antihistamines, don't help with whooping cough.

    For more information on immunizations visit Immunize BC at www.immunizebc.ca.

    How can you prevent whooping cough?

    Making sure that you and your children are immunized against whooping cough is the best way to prevent it. Starting at age 2 months, children need a series of shots (called DTaP) to protect against whooping cough. A booster shot (called Tdap) is recommended for ages 14 to 16 and for adults who haven't had a Tdap shot yet. Because whooping cough symptoms can be mild in adults, you may not know that you have the illness. Without a Tdap shot, if you have whooping cough, you can spread whooping cough to a young infant or another person who isn't protected and for whom the disease is much more dangerous.

    You can get whooping cough more than one time, and you may get it years apart. But you will be less likely to get it again if you get the shots as recommended. Washing your hands often and staying away from people who have a bad cough may also help you avoid getting the disease.
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