NANAIMO — Health officials are calling Gabriola Island’s outbreak of whooping cough the worst in years, with 10 new cases reported in just over a week.
There were three cases of whooping cough on Gabriola Island at the end of December, but by Jan. 8 that number had risen to 14 — the largest recent outbreak in the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
According to Dr. Paul Hasselback, central island medical officer for VIHA, other communities haven’t seen whooping cough, or pertussis, since November and never in clusters as large as the one on Gabriola.
The outbreak is concerning, he said, and prompting health officials to renew calls for parents to update their children’s vaccinations.
The last time the island community had confirmed cases of whooping cough was in 2008. There have been no hospitalizations.
“We are quite concerned about what’s going on,” Hasselback said. “But it is not a surprise … and it’s still not at the same magnitude as what we are seeing across the strait, where we are talking about hundreds of cases.”
Whooping cough cases in North America have risen sharply over the past 12 months. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted more than 36,000 cases of the infection as of November 2012, twice what was seen in 2011.
The infection hasn’t been seen in years, Hasselback said, but once present it starts to spread to those that haven’t been vaccinated, or who have built an immunity to the vaccine.
Whooping cough can be lethal to infants under 12 months old, affecting their ability to breathe.
Gabriola Elementary School had sent notices to parents and is taking extra cleaning measures.
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