As cases of whooping cough pop up throughout the Fraser Health region, medical authorities here are now expanding their adult vaccination recommendations beyond the original outbreak zone in Hope and Chilliwack.
Last week, the health authority announced it's encouraging all adults and youth in the region who are in regular contact with young children to get the free vaccination from their doctor or participating pharmacy. The recommendation includes pregnant women and their partners.
The health region runs from Boston Bar to Burnaby, including New Westminster, Coquitlam, Delta, Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge and Abbotsford, covering more than 1.6 million people.
"The best protection against whooping cough is to get vaccinated," said Dr. Paul Van Buynder, the region's chief medical health officer. "The booster shot is especially important for those who have or expect to have close contact with infants and young children. The vaccine that most people get when they are children only offers protection for four to 10 years, so there are many adults without adequate coverage."
An outbreak in Hope in December was initially thought to be well contained, but cases have since cropped up in Chilliwack, Harrison/Agassiz and in other Fraser Health communities.
In all, there have been 140 suspected or confirmed cases, but health officials say the true number could be much higher, as some cases go undiagnosed or unreported. Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious disease that causes severe coughing that may last for months and can be fatal, particularly for infants.
The disease spreads easily through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even laughs. Symptoms appear about seven to 14 days after infection, looking initially like a cold with runny rose, low fever and mild cough, but the cough will continue to worsen, becoming so bad that it can lead to vomiting.
The health authority is also encouraging parents to ensure their children are fully immunized.
Free vaccine is available through doctors' offices and participating pharmacies for adults and youth who haven't had a whooping cough booster in the past five years and are in regular contact with young children. A list of immunizing pharmacies can be found at www.fraserhealth.ca/ whoopingcough. To check a child's immunization records and make an appointment for childhood immunizations, contact a local health unit for an appointment.
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