More vaccine readied to battle whooping cough

Health officials fear pertussis outbreak in eastern Fraser Valley may move west

  • Feb. 3, 2012 6:00 a.m.

Fraser Health has confirmed more than 100 cases of pertussis

More vaccine doses are being stockpiled in case an outbreak of whooping cough in the eastern Fraser Valley spreads further west.

Hope, Agassiz and Chilliwack have so far seen most of the more than 100 confirmed local cases of pertussis, a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes adults to cough for months but can be deadly to babies.

Fraser Health will acquire another 50,000 doses of vaccine by the second week of February in case public health officials decide to widen their immunization program, which has so far focused on the eastern Valley.

“We’ve seen sporadic cases in Maple Ridge, in Langley and in Surrey, so we know there’s some disease out there,” Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder.

“If it’s necessary in the next week or two we will run a program for the whole of the Fraser Valley.”

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is considered more of an irritant for adults, but they act as carriers.

Van Buynder said about half the very young children who contract pertussis are hospitalized and about one or two per cent of those hospitalized die.

Three-quarters of infants infected get it from parents or close family members.

California had a huge outbreak in 2009 that claimed the lives of 10 children, five more died in Saskatchewan in 2010 and two more children died last year just across the border in Washington State, where authorities are still battling an outbreak.

“This is a nasty disease and it’s back in the Fraser Valley after an absence of about eight years,” Van Buynder said.

Part of the challenge is that health authorities no longer use an older, more powerful vaccine due to concern over its side effects.

The weaker vaccine that replaced it provides immunity for only about four to 10 years, Van Buynder said.

Fraser Health wants to immunize all adults in outbreak areas who have close contact with young children, to prevent transmission to the most vulnerable.

“We know that there are some parts of the Fraser Valley where there are groups of parents who don’t believe in the importance of immunization and they place the rest of the community at significant risk,” Van Buynder said.

The new vaccine takes at least three doses to fully protect a child, he said, so Fraser Health is now vaccinating them earlier – as young as 14 weeks.

Pregnant women are also being vaccinated, Van Buynder said, because it’s safe to use during pregnancy and immunity will extend to the newborn.

Cases of pertussis in the eastern Valley took off in mid-December in Hope and nearby First Nations reserves.

“We’ve started to see the spread of it down the Fraser Valley moving westward,” Van Buynder said, adding the most recent cases have been in Chilliwack.

Two children have been hospitalized so far and one infected several weeks ago is still fighting the disease in B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Video

2008 story from ImmunizeBC of one B.C. family’s experience with pertussis.

Just Posted

LETTER: Fisheries letter invites colonized misinformation

Leah Ballantyne writes to share her disappointment in a recent letter to the Observer

RCMP urge caution for back to school drivers

Police are asking drivers to slow down and watch for pedestrians

Traffic accident on Highway 1

Hour long backup from Abbotsford to Langley

Sts’ailes invites adults to become engaged in Halq’eméylem with new video series

‘Qw’oqwel te Qw’oqwel’ gives language learners an immersive way to learn Halq’eméylem

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Groups ready campaign to help young voters identify ‘fake news’ in election

The media literacy campaign to focus on identifying misinformation and suspicious sources online

Big rally in northern B.C. draws attention to continuing lumber crisis

Mayor Joan Atkinson says about 400 workers have been directly affected by the closure of the Canfor mill

Most Read