An outbreak of whooping cough has been declared in southern Alberta, causing concern for healthcare officials in Saskatchewan.  

Dr. David Torr, medical health officer for southwest networks 4, 5 and 6, said it’s very likely to make its way to the southwest soon, if it hasn’t already. 

"What is being noted in the communities that are having these outbreaks, is that they have quite significantly low childhood immunization rates," he said. "And so that is definitely contributing, in that many of these children are exposed and not really protected and therefore are getting infected and at the same time infecting others. 

"We would really encourage our parents to make sure [their children] are up to date, and if they're not, book as soon as they can through public health to get their children up to date with the vaccinations so that we don't have any of these outbreaks here." 

Immunization against whooping cough can start as young as two months of age. 

The respiratory infection comes with a severe and prolonged cough that lasts for weeks, and can have serious complications such as pneumonia, convulsions and even brain damage. 

What starts out like the common cold, quickly turns into something more serious—repetitive coughing spells can make it difficult to breathe or keep food down. 

“[Whooping cough] is caused by a bacterium, and there are antibiotics that can help shorten the period of coughing and also shorten the infectivity period,” Dr. Torr explained. “But still, if someone is not vaccinated the period of time is quite significant of illness.” 

Dr. Torr advised that anyone with whooping cough isolates, staying home from work or school to avoid spreading the infection. 

"We have not seen outbreaks yet—we are seeing them in Aberta, and very likely they will come this way,” he added. “We have an opportunity of catching up on our vaccinations so that we can get better protection and avoid these outbreaks or cases of whooping cough. And remember, that when you do get your vaccine shot, it takes at least 10 to 14 days before you start developing that immunity. So, the sooner one gets it, the sooner you get that protection.”

More information on whooping cough can be found on the Saskatchewan Health Authority's website

Folks can contact Public Health at 306-778-5280, to book their vaccinations.