The recent outbreak of whooping cough in Hope has increased demand for the vaccine.
Hope Public Health Unit is currently providing about 100 immunizations daily to local residents. Nurses are also targeting schools this week where there’s been a “cluster of cases” reported.
“It’s been very busy,” said supervisor Kim Roberts. “I think our phone lines have been swamped so that people can’t even get through.”
There’s been more than two dozen new cases reported in the area since August, including 15 since December.
“There’s other areas that have also had pockets,” said Roberts, pointing to Washington and Saskatchewan. “Why we’re the only one in B.C. right now, we have no idea.”
Whooping cough, or Pertussis, causes severe coughing that may last for months. It is very contagious and spreads easily through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or laughs, putting bacteria into the air. After the bacteria infects someone, symptoms appear about seven to 14 days later.
“It has been many years since British Columbia has had an outbreak of Pertussis so there is very little natural immunity,” said Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Fraser Health’s chief medical health officer. “The best protection against Pertussis is to get vaccinated. Pertussis in very young children can lead to hospitalization and even death.”
Officials point out that early symptoms are similar to those of a cold and include sneezing, runny nose, low fever and a mild cough. Gradually the cough gets worse leading to “longer spells of coughing that often end with a whoop or crowing sound when the person breathes in.”
“Lots of times people may not know that they have it,” said Roberts. “Not everybody gets full-blown symptoms, especially adults.”
Fraser Health is offering a free booster vaccine to adults who are in regular contact with young children and have not had a booster in the last five years.
Residents are asked contact the Hope Public Health Unit at 604-860-7630, their doctor or health care provider to receive the vaccine. Pharmasave has also re-opened its flu vaccine service while the health unit deals with the whooping cough outbreak.