A whooping cough outbreak in Yellowknife and the Tłı̨chǫ region has been declared by the Northwest Territories' chief public health officer.
The territorial government announced a pertussis outbreak on Wednesday, using the disease's official name. The declaration came a month after eight Tłı̨chǫ cases of whooping cough were first made public.
"As of January 15, 2020, there have been 20 lab-confirmed cases of pertussis in these regions," the chief public health officer's statement said on Wednesday.
The Department of Health and Social Services encouraged people to get vaccinated as a precaution.
"Residents can protect themselves and their loved ones from pertussis by getting vaccinated. The pertussis-containing vaccine is safe and effective," the territorial government's statement continued.
"Since the immunity from the pertussis vaccine may fade over time, an adolescent booster dose is offered in Grade 7 and every 10 years as an adult. Pregnant women should get a pertussis-containing vaccine between 27-32 weeks of their pregnancy, regardless of their last dose. This will help prevent spreading pertussis to their baby once the baby is born."
The NWT government said the vaccine is free of charge and part of the routine immunization schedule for residents.
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.
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,” warned the health department.
The department encouraged 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 at home, to protect vulnerable children and pregnant women.