A whooping cough outbreak has been declared in Southern Health.

According to Manitoba Health, there have been 154 confirmed or probable cases of whooping cough reported in our province since January. Of those, 152 were reported in this regional health authority. 

Most of the cases have involved children between the ages of one and nine. The age range of cases includes:

  • 30 infants aged one year or younger;
  • 80 cases in children aged one to nine;
  • 24 cases in children aged 10 to 19; and
  • 20 cases in adults.

The outbreak includes 78 female and 76 male cases and has resulted in 55 related visits to emergency departments and two admissions to pediatric intensive care. No deaths have been reported.

According to Manitoba Health, whooping cough is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable illness. It is caused by a bacteria, usually spread through respiratory droplets in the air when coughing or sneezing and is most contagious during the initial stages of illness. Initially, symptoms are similar to those of the common cold, and usually show up seven to 10 days after being exposed. The illness often starts with a mild fever, runny nose and a cough. It can lead to serious coughing fits that can last for one to 10 weeks. The coughing fits may cause difficulty breathing, choking and vomiting. Infants may also have poor feeding.

Manitoba Health says whooping cough can affect people of all ages, but infants aged one year or younger are at greatest risk of severe complications, including periods of stalled breathing, pneumonia, seizures, brain swelling and death. Pregnant people in their third trimester are also at higher risk.

People who have symptoms of whooping cough should see their health-care provider. Infected individuals may be prescribed antibiotics and should stay home and avoid close contact with others until treatment is completed. This can help prevent further spread of infection.

Whooping cough is a reportable disease in Manitoba. The number of cases reported varies from year to year, and typically peaks every two to five years. For a group of cases to be considered an outbreak, there must be a higher number of cases reported in a specific area than is expected over a specific period of time.