The public health unit for Elgin and Oxford counties is warning of a “dramatic rise” in the number of whooping cough cases in the last two months.

Southwestern Public Health confirmed 82 cases of the highly contagious respiratory disease between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28. That’s about 40 per cent of the provincial total during that period, said its medical officer of health, Ninh Tran.

“Combine this with the number of children who are unvaccinated or under vaccinated and I am concerned in particular for the youngest members of our community,” he said in a statement.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a common childhood disease that spreads quickly through droplets in the air from coughing and sneezing.

The cough starts with cold-like symptoms that progressively worsen into long coughing spells. An infection can last between two and eight weeks. The cough, often recognized by a high-pitched “whooping” sound, may lead to vomiting or trouble breathing.

The illness is particularly dangerous in infants, who are at risk of serious complications. In rare cases, it can be fatal or lead to brain damage.

Public health officials are urging parents and guardians to keep themselves and their children up to date with the whopping cough vaccine.

“I have two asks of our local parents,” Tran said.

“The first is that you make yourself familiar with the symptoms of pertussis and seek medical care if your child has these symptoms.”

He said those infected with the cough could be treated with antibiotics and would no longer be contagious after five days on the medication.

“Second,” Tran said, “please contact your family health care provider or Southwestern Public Health to get your child’s routine vaccinations up to date.”

The health unit offers free vaccine appointments through its clinics, which can be booked online at www.swpublichealth.ca/booking.

cleon@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/CalviatLFPress

By Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 08, 2023 at 12:45

This item reprinted with permission from   London Free Press   London, Ontario
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