Island Health confirmed at least one student at a Vancouver Island high school has been diagnosed with whooping cough (pertussis).
The health agency and school sent a letter to students and parents at Mount Douglas secondary in Saanich on Thursday with hopes to stem further outbreak of the airborne bacteria.
“Individuals who have attended the school may have been in contact with the bacteria, which are spread by coughing,” said the letter.
Whooping cough for teens is a nagging, uncomfortable illness though it is a much greater health concern for infants as it can be fatal for those under one year of age. Therefore, Island Health is asking the community to be careful in tracking who has been exposed to any confirm cases.
“Infants are very vulnerable, and about one infant out of every 170 who gets pertussis will die from it,” said Island Health spokesperson Meribeth Burton.
Pregnant mothers in their third trimester can also be at risk as they may expose their newborn infant after birth.
Island Health reported that Vancouver Island had 213 confirmed cases of whooping cough in 2017 and 373 confirmed cases in 2016, the latter being the highest number of cases reported on Vancouver Island in recent years.
The cough begins with cold-like symptoms that may progress to a severe cough with a distinctive ‘whooping’ sound, which may be followed by gagging or vomiting.
Symptoms can last for several weeks.
If someone is diagnosed with pertussis, antibiotic treatment will be needed. After five days of treatment, the individual will no longer be considered infectious and can return to school or work.
A vaccine for pertussis is among the immunization protocol for B.C. children, usually given during the first year of life, then again around 18 months and again upon entering Kindergarten.
There is one additional booster shot when children are in Grade 9.
Anyone who develops the symptoms is asked to contact their health care provider to test for pertussis bacteria.