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Whooping cough has spread across provinces: Alberta Health Services

Cases of whooping cough are growing in Alberta, and a Calgary doctor says it’s a good reminder for parents to keep their kids safe by getting vaccinated.

An outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, was declared in January in the province’s south zone, AHS said in a public service announcement Friday. It has continued to grow with a smaller outbreak now in the central zone.

Between those two zones, there are now 114 identified cases with the majority being children.

AHS said 72 per cent are between the ages of one and nine, and five children have been hospitalized.

Pertussis is a bacterial infection that causes severe and prolonged coughing that lasts for weeks. It can impact people of all ages, but infants are at greatest risk of serious complications, including pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and death.

The size of the outbreak — 114 — is “pretty sizeable,” said Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician and University of Calgary professor.

“Whooping cough is an infection where we’re known to sort of get sporadic outbreaks in Alberta because sometimes our immunization rates aren’t particularly high and also it’s a pretty infectious disease,” Hu said.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s happening and I think that it just shows how important vaccination is.”

He added that it’s often very young children who are most affected by pertussis.

The cases are in Willingdon, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Coaldale, Taber, Vauxhall, Grassy Lake, Bow Island, County of Forty Mile, Seven Persons, and Fort Macleod.

AHS said many of these communities have significantly low childhood immunization rates and there is evidence of transmission within households, community events and gatherings and at some schools.

AHS is issuing a reminder to all people of the importance of immunization, particularly in small children, to prevent further illness.

Hu advised keeping kids up to date on their vaccinations and to be aware of public health notifications for communities and schools.