Island’s top doc: prepare for whooping cough

While there are no confirmed cases of whooping cough locally,

While there are no confirmed cases of whooping cough locally, it’s not a bad idea to take precautions, said the medical health officer for the North Island.

“At this point in time we don’t have any identified cases,” said Dr. Paul Hasselback, who acknowledged a person infected with whooping cough was in the area.

“We did have someone visiting your area who, at the time they were visiting, did have pertussis,” he said.

The infected person was at a Naming and Coming of Age Feast at the Big House March 2, where a large number of people had gathered.

But as far as anyone can tell, the pertussis was not passed on, but the fact someone who had it was here is cause for concern.

“We’re very rigorous about trying to identify households where someone who was even exposed to pertussis might actually be going back to a household where there’s an infant under the age of one,” said Hasselback.

“Children under the age of one can have severe complications from developing the illness and our vaccination program starts at two months of age for that very reason.”

Pertussis is spread by people breathing in droplets that were coughed into the air by a sick person. And while there’s no outbreak of whooping cough on the island, it is in the province, said Hasselback.

“We have an outbreak of pertussis on the lower mainland in the Fraser Valley and people travel there and people from there travel to other parts of B.C.,” he said.

Because pertussis is in the province, the doctor said now is a good time to make sure every child is properly immunized and, if not, get it done.

“The best way of protecting against developing pertussis is to be up to date with immunization, particularly for children and infants.”

Hasselback said he believes there’s a good chance pertussis will make its way to Vancouver Island, and quite possibly onto the North Island.

“I think what happened in Port Hardy will happen against in that someone unknowingly, unwittingly and certainly not with any intent, just happens to be traveling to a large social gathering — and there’s lots of those about to happen with wedding season coming up and hockey and baseball tournaments — where there happens to be one person who’s sick. Well, I’ll be surprised to see pertussis not on the island.”

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