Health

NWT warns residents over whooping cough in Tłı̨chǫ region


The NWT's chief public health officer says there have been eight confirmed recent cases of whooping cough in the territory's Tłı̨chǫ region.

The territory’s Department of Health and Social Services issued a public health advisory in response to "localized pertussis activity" on Friday, using the disease's official name. The department encouraged people to get vaccinated as a precaution.

Earlier this week, authorities in Nunavut said whooping cough had recently killed one person in Iqaluit.

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The NWT's health department said while people are usually vaccinated as children – and many receive a booster shot in Grade 7 and every 10 years thereafter – immunity can fade over time.

Pregnant women are encouraged to get vaccinated around week 27 or 28 of pregnancy to protect their baby, no matter when they received their last dose.

Whooping cough, which affects the lungs and airways, is a bacteria-caused illness that spreads easily. It is most dangerous to children under one year.

Symptoms usually begin to appear a week to 10 days after exposure, but could take nearly a month to develop. They include mild fever, runny nose, red and watery eyes, sneezing, and mild cough. 

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Two weeks after the first symptoms begin, the cough becomes “severe, repeated, and forceful” and ends with a whooping sound between breaths.

“The cough tends to be worse at night and may result in vomiting and difficulty breathing. Babies and small children may turn blue,” warns the health department.

The department is encouraging anyone who thinks they have been exposed to whooping cough – or who has a cough for longer than a week to contact their local health centre and stay home, to protect vulnerable children and pregnant women.

None of the eight NWT residents who recently contracted the disease have been hospitalized, the department said.

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