Canada has issued a Travel Health Notice, warning its citizens of the whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic in California. The epidemic has so far caused 3,311 cases of the disease resulting in eight deaths, seven of whom were infants under two months of age who had not received any doses of the vaccine.
They go on to warn that other states are experiencing localized cases of whooping cough.
The Public Health Agency of Canada advises travelers to make sure their pertussis vaccination is up-to-date prior to traveling to the states and to visit their health care providers upon their return if they experience symptoms that may be whooping cough.
Whooping cough is highly contagious. It is spread through droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing and takes three to 12 days for symptoms to appear. The Mayo Clinic lists early symptoms of whooping cough as:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Red, watery eyes
- A mild fever
- Dry cough
After a week or two, signs and symptoms worsen. Severe and prolonged coughing attacks may:
- Bring up thick phlegm
- Provoke vomiting
- Result in a red or blue face
- Cause extreme fatigue
- End with a high-pitched “whoop” sound during the next breath of air
- Bruised or cracked ribs
- Abdominal hernias
- Broken blood vessels in the skin or the whites of your eyes
Complications for infants are more severe and may include:
- Ear infections
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Brain damage
The coughing spells can last as long as four to six weeks. Fever is rare. Although it affects people around the world and in all age groups, it is more serious in infants, and those who are not immunized are at greatest risk of complications and more likely to need treatment in a hospital. Whooping cough can be life-threatening, especially for infants less than 6 months old.
The California Department of Public Health says the state is “on pace to suffer the most illnesses and deaths due to pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in 50 years.”
The rates of vaccinations for diseases like whooping cough have been decreasing for years over fears that vaccines may cause autism or other conditions.
Care2’s Kristina Chew, who often tackles the subject of vaccinations, recently wrote on the subject:
“The extent of this fear is such that parents have chosen to delay their children’s vaccinations, or, in some cases, not to vaccinate their children at all. Choosing not to vaccinate your child has ramifications for the health of everybody, as it threatens herd immunity. Herd immunity means that, as a sufficient number of members of a community have been vaccinated, those who are not vaccinated (and who are therefore susceptible to infectious diseases) are protected. However, herd immunity is lessened as fewer children are immunized.”
Related reading on Care2:
- 6th Infant Dies in California, Possibly From Whooping Cough
- Whooping Cough Epidemic Declared in California
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