Spike in Smithers whooping cough cases

A spike in the number of whooping cough cases in Smithers has prompted Northern Health to encourage more people to consider immunization.

A spike in the number of whooping cough cases in Smithers has prompted Northern Health to encourage more people to consider immunizing their children.

Six cases of the illness, also known as pertussis, have been confirmed in Smithers since the beginning of March.

Infants under one-year-old are the most vulnerable to the respiratory bacterial condition, which is highlight infectious and can be contracted by people of all ages.

According to Northern Health, whooping cough can be a serious disease for unimmunized infants and starts with symptoms similar to the common cold.

As the illness progresses the cough can become severe and may be accompanied by gasping, gagging, shortness of breath or vomiting.

There have been no reported deaths from whooping cough in northwest B.C. this year.

Northern Health statistics from 2012 show 64 per cent of two-year-olds were up to date on all of their immunizations, compared with 79 per cent in Hazelton and 75 per cent in Houston.

According to the same 2013 report, Smithers had the highest number of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases in northwest B.C. between 2002 and 2012.

A total 56 cases were reported in Smithers compared with 18 in Hazelton and 19 in Houston.

Northern Health northwest medical health officer Dr. Raina Fumerton encouraged residents to contact their local health providers to discuss vaccination to protect themselves from the illness.

“Northern Health is seeing an increase in pertussis cases, more commonly known as whooping cough, in the northwest part of B.C.,” said Fumerton.

“Public Health staff are working hard to isolate the cases of whooping cough.

“The best protection against whooping cough is immunization.

“This is not only a benefit for you, but also to help prevent spread to your loved ones who may be more vulnerable.”