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Vancouver Coastal Health warns public about whooping cough

Health officials concerned about possible spread of respiratory disease
whooping cough
WHOOPING COUGH: Parents of children who attended a recent library workshop are being warned by health officials of possible exposure to pertussis. Contributed photo

A warning over the possible spread of whooping cough has gone out to parents who brought their children to Powell River Public Library’s reading club events last month.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) sent a notice confirming a child in attendance had pertussis, better known as whooping cough, to anyone who attended the events from July 4 to 29.

“We certainly encourage those who received the notices to get vaccinated, particularly those attending the reading club and drama workshop, because they were inside an enclosed space with a child who was sick,” said VCH medical health officer James Lu.

VCH has documented approximately 80 cases of pertussis so far this year, about double compared to annual averages. A majority of cases in the last few weeks have been in Squamish.

Lu said every three to five years there tends to be a bump in the number of confirmed cases on the BC coast. He confirmed there has yet to be any further cases in Powell River.

A contagious disease of the lungs and throat, pertussis spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes into the air where others can breathe it in. It can take seven to 21 days for someone who is sick to experience symptoms.

VCH is asking those who may have been exposed to monitor their health for early symptoms and visit healthcare providers to be tested for the disease.

Lu said the earlier a person is diagnosed and treated the less likely the disease will be spread. He asked families to make sure their children’s vaccinations are up to date. Regular vaccinations up to 14 years old include boosters to enhance immunity for whooping cough.

The disease, also known as 100-day cough, affects young and old, but is usually most serious in small children younger than one and up to four years old, said Lu.

“It used to be thought of as a disease of children, but now we feel adults are affected as well,” he said. “We tend to provide boosters for whooping cough vaccine for children up until they get to high school, but into adulthood people’s immunity tends to wane.”

A booster for adults is available, but not free. For more information, go to