September 18, 2013: In recent weeks, increased numbers of whooping cough
(pertussis) cases are being seen in Southwestern Ontario. With whooping cough on
the rise, and a new school year underway, it is important to make sure you and your
family are protected against this infectious disease. Elgin St. Thomas Public Health
encourages you to make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date and to speak with your
health care provider immediately if you have an unexplained, prolonged cough.
The Facts about Whooping Cough
Whooping cough is a very contagious infection that spreads easily from person to
person through coughing and sneezing. The infection often starts with mild cold
symptoms. People with whooping cough are most contagious from the time their cold
symptoms start until 2-3 weeks after they begin coughing. The cough may end with
vomiting and/or a "whooping" sound. In many people, the symptoms get worse and last
Whooping cough is most serious for babies. Babies are at the highest risk of developing
medical conditions caused by whooping cough like pneumonia, dehydration, and brain
damage. Babies have the hardest time because they are not strong enough to fight
the disease. It can also be hard to tell if babies have whooping cough because they
don't show the usual signs of the infection. This can sometimes lead to delay in
seeking health care.
Prevent the Spread of Whooping Cough in Our Community
- See your health care provider if you have an unexplained, prolonged cough or have
close contact with a person diagnosed with whooping cough. Early diagnosis and treatment
may reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the contagious period. Doctors who
suspect whooping cough are required to report it to their local health unit within
one working day.
- If you have whooping cough, you should not go back to work or school until you have
finished five days of antibiotic treatment.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Clean your hands often.
- Make sure you are vaccinated against whooping cough.
- Infants should begin their vaccinations at 2 months of age and should receive
a total of 5 injections by age 4-6 years.
- Infants who are not fully vaccinated against whooping cough are at risk of severe
complications if they get sick. One out of every two infants less than 1 year of
age, who get sick with whooping cough, is hospitalized. One or two out of a hundred
- Adolescents 14-18 years old are eligible to receive a booster dose of the
publicly funded vaccine. It's generally given between 14-16 years of age.
- All adults 19-64 years old who have missed their adolescent booster.
- Pertussis vaccine is extremely important for: those are planning a pregnancy or
expecting a baby; those who care for babies and young children; health care providers.
- Speak to a healthcare provider about getting your free Tdap vaccine that contains
a tetanus and diphtheria booster and also protects against whooping cough.
Free vaccine is available:
- Every Thursday from 1:30 to 4:00 pm at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health, 99 Edward
Street, St. Thomas
- The 1st Tuesday of each month from 1:30 to 7:00 pm at 424 Talbot Street West, Suite
"The CDC reports that unvaccinated children have eight times the risk for contracting
whooping cough than those children who receive the vaccine. Also, when vaccinated
children do come down with the disease, not only are their symptoms milder, but
they are less likely to pass their infection onto others."
To find out more about whooping cough prevention, please contact your health care
provider or Elgin St. Thomas Public Health at 519-631-9900. For an interactive guide
to vaccination visit: