US UnSafe? Canada Warns of Whooping Cough Risk in US

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/Pertussis
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
  • Sneezing
  • 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

Complications include:

  • 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
  • Pneumonia
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures
  • 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 Vaccine
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:

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Jane R.
Jane R7 years ago

If the vaccine is safe, it should be mandatory for all children.

jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago

This disease was all but gone,then we became careless. We forgot how lethal Whooping Couch can be.
A middle ground needs to be found. The more antibacterial we get the more the bacteria mutate to a stronger form. Same with viruses. Which diseases do we accept and which do we fight?
Should these be individual choices? I don't know. When the public health is at risk, where do you draw the line?

SusanQ S.
Susan S7 years ago

My children are in thier 40's and my grandchildren are in their 20's . This problem was never even heard of when they were born, or if they were I never heard about it.
I don't have any answers for any mothers facing making these kinds of decisions but I just want them all to know that I ,and all my friends are praying for them and that an answer will be found to this horrible problem.

Sherylee Harper
Sherylee Harper7 years ago

Not all vacines are created equal. Not every person will have a good experience of them. I get flu shots every year and within 14 days I have symptoms; runny nose, cough, headaches, lethargy, congestion etc.

I asked my Doc about it and he said it was a coincidence. Nuts! The stuff makes me ill. BUT! If I don't get shot then I could end up a lot worse off. I did not enjoy having the 'Swine Flu' last winter, but I survived to get the shot after having it. Living in a 55 complex where some residents are frail getting vaccinated is important to protect the lives of others.

In BC all medical staff and those working in certain aspects provincial government are provided vaccines through our employment. We can't help others if we are sick. It is far less expensive to provide vaccine for the population than it is to try to clean up/stop an epidemic.

Remember SARS in Toronto, Canada? Last winter's Swine Flu variant?

How many of those who died might have lived and chosen a vaccine if it had been available to them or their families?

Carole K.
Carole K7 years ago

Way to go Canadian neighbors on 2 counts:
(1) national comprehensive health care model to emulate
(2) telling the US by action that we are jeopardizing public health by our own negligence in regard to whooping cough.
Sometimes Americans will heed what Canadians think of us; I hope this is so on this issue & I hope the people who need to know this information become aware of it somehow.

Chris L.
Chris L7 years ago

Kay I was wondering if the effectiveness has worn off. I mentioned a health care professional in my family who has to be up to date on all her shots got whooping cough about a year ago. I have no idea if there is a booster for whooping cough, but she and her doctor were both surprised to find an adult case, especially in someone who is up to date on all required shots, etc.

Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS7 years ago

err.. typo. That should have read, "then he would NOT have caught it no matter how unthinking and uncaring the first child's parents were"...

Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS7 years ago

At first I was upset at a parent who would refuse to immunize their own child so that it ended up catching a disease then passing that disease on to another child (killing or potentially maiming the child in the worst cases). Then, as I thought a little longer, I realized that the other child's parents would be just as guilty as the first child's parents, because they chose not to immunize their kid either. If they had chosen to immunize their child, then he would have caught it no matter how unthinking and uncaring the first child's parents were when it comes to the health of others besides themselves....

C. G.
C. G7 years ago


Chris L.
Chris L7 years ago

As we develop vaccines like chicken pox for more minor issues should those become mandatory? Do we allow people any choices?