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Immunization clinics for whooping cough outbreak

To address an ongoing whooping cough (Pertussis) outbreak in southern Alberta, Alberta Health Services is holding a series of immunization clinics.
Fort Macleod clinics are Monday, June 25 from 1-3 p.m. and Wednesday, June 27 from 4:30-6 p.m. at the health centre.
“This is a serious public health issue, and we cannot stress enough the importance of immunization,” said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, medical officer of health for the south zone. “Because infants are especially vulnerable to this outbreak, we are targeting these clinics for the parents and care-givers of infants less than one year of age.”
Care-givers include anyone who provides direct care: grandparents, nannies, and staff from child care facilities.
Infants are not being immunized at the clinics.
The goal is to create a “cocoon” of vaccinated people around the newborn, Suttorp said.
“By vaccinating the parents and care-givers with a Pertussis booster, there is a decreased risk to the child contracting the disease from the people close to them,” Suttorp said.
Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that may last for months. A person can have whooping cough for up to three weeks before showing symptoms.
This ongoing outbreak has infected 36 southern Albertan residents in the past six months, most recently affecting two infants and two toddlers who have required hospitalization to treat the illness.
Alberta Health Services is contacting new parents to advise them of the opportunity to immunize infants earlier.
Children less than two months old will be immunized as early as six weeks of age to ensure the most vulnerable infants are protected from Pertussis and possible complications. Boosters will be provided at 10 and 14 weeks.
Children who have already started receiving immunizations will see no change in their current immunization schedule.
“New parents will be offered Pertussis vaccine prior to discharge from hospital,” Suttorp said. “We will be encouraging immunization of children who have not received their age appropriate vaccines.”
In Alberta, immunization against pertussis is available, free of charge, through the routine childhood immunization program. Individuals must complete the full immunization schedule to be considered protected.
Anyone who suspects they, or a family member, may be sick with Pertussis should stay at home and call a family physician or Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465, before seeking medical care.

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