With an increasing number of cases of whooping cough in the Victoria area schools, VIHA officials are urging parents to vaccinate their children.

Whooping cough detected in Claremont student

15 Greater Victoria schools have been informed of a student with pertussis since September

A case of whooping cough has been detected at a Saanich school.

A notice was sent home to parents of Claremont secondary students and posted on the school website advising that children in the school may have come in contact with the pertussis germ, which is spread by coughing.

“Pertussis begins with mild cold-like symptoms and may progress to a severe cough with a whoop, which may be followed by vomiting,” according to the notice which advises parents to contact their family doctor if their child develops a persistent cough.

Island Health media relations officer Meribeth Burton said there have been two reported cases of pertussis in Greater Victoria schools so far in 2018 and 15 schools have been informed of a student with pertussis since September. There were 107 cases of pertussis reported on the South Island between January and November of last year. That’s up from the 79 cases in 2016 but well below the 213 cases in 2015.

“About 76 per cent of our local population is protected by vaccination, but we would like to see that number considerably higher. We’d also suggest that adults get a booster shot to ensure their protection,” said VIHA medical health officer Dr. Dee Hoyana in an earlier interview.

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. Pertussis can cause complications such as pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or even death. These complications happen most often in infants under one year of age. Each year in Canada, one to three deaths occur due to pertussis, mostly in babies less than three months of age who have not been immunized.

While the disease was thought of as a childhood disease prior to the development of a vaccine, it now primarily affects children too young to have had the full course of vaccinations or older adults whose immunity has faded and who have not received a booster shot in adulthood.

While deaths from pertussis are rare, they do occur, primarily in infants and older adults.

Worldwide, there are about 400,000 deaths annually and deaths have occurred in Canada.

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