Whooping cough makes deadly return across Canada
A highly contagious bacterial disease is spreading in four provinces, infecting as many as 2,000 people with a violent, uncontrollable cough and killing an infant in Alberta, as public-health authorities scramble to boost their vaccination programs.
British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, southern Alberta, parts of Southwestern Ontario and New Brunswick are dealing with severe outbreaks of a disease that was once on the wane – pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, which can be especially deadly if contracted by infants. The United States, meanwhile, appears headed for its worst year for whooping cough in more than five decades, with more than 18,000 cases reported so far.
As health authorities on both sides of the border urge parents to get their children vaccinated, and start offering free vaccine clinics for adults, the outbreaks have fuelled debate about the vaccine’s effectiveness over time. The latest spread of the disease can be partially explained by parents who shun vaccinating their children. But health officials say a larger issue is at play: Children under six years need five doses of the whooping cough vaccine, with a booster in their teenage years. Routine vaccination efforts, however, have stopped by the time they reach adulthood.