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Whooping cough cases surpass 6,000 in Quebec


The whooping cough is spreading in Quebec.

As of Saturday, the Quebec health ministry documented over 6,000 cases of the infectious pulmonary disease since the start of the year.

Last year, there were only 106 cases and in 2022, it was 44.

The Chaudière-Appalaches (948 cases), Eastern Townships (810 cases), and Laurentians (641 cases) regions are the most affected.

There are 453 cases documented in Montreal.

The whooping cough is most contagious in its first stage when it resembles a cold. Its characteristic severe coughing fits, recognizable by their gasping sound, set in after and last for a long time.

Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr Earl Rubin explained that the disease tends to peak every two to five years. For him, the rise in cases this year is "not necessarily unexpected."

"It's highly contagious," he said. "The vaccines give you immunity, but it's not long lasting, so people have waning immunity from the vaccine. Then, there were some people who missed their vaccines because of the pandemic and so compliance with vaccines also went down."

In Quebec, the whooping cough vaccine is administered to children under a year old and is included in the tetanus vaccine.

A second dose is administered between ages four to six.

Quebec's routine vaccine schedule currently does not include the vaccine against the whopping cough for teens and adults, but the vaccine can still be requested.

Children are targeted for vaccines because they are at the highest risk of complications if they catch the whooping cough, said Rubin.

However, he specified that anyone, regardless of age, could get the disease.

"The other thing that's really important, and that Quebec does pay for us, is vaccinating moms in their third trimester of pregnancy, so that the mother makes antibodies which cross over to the placenta to the infant," said Rubin. "The infant will then be protected during that most vulnerable time in the first three to six months of life."

He added that there is a "low, but measurable" number of deaths associated with whooping cough.

"It's had a lot of names: pertussis, whooping cough, 100-day cough, because it gives you a long, lingering cough that can be quite significant to the point of having rib fractures from coughing so much," he said. "So, adults get it but, thankfully, don't seem to die from it, but they can be quite sick."

As cases continue rising, Rubin believes the number of cases is an underestimate.

"Those are 6,000 declared cases to public health," he said. "Getting tested is not an easy feat. The test is available, it's getting somebody to take the test [that is difficult]. If you don't have access to getting that test done, then physicians are supposed to declare it to public health as a clinical case, and not everybody does that." Top Stories

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