An outbreak of whooping cough in Southern Alberta is causing concerns for doctors here in Southern Saskatchewan.  

According to Medical Health Officer Dr. David Torr, whooping cough vaccination rates are low which is a recipe for the outbreak to move east toward Saskatchewan.  

“The two common factors, of course, there's a lot of intercommunication and travel between those areas and at the same time what is being attributed to this outbreak phenomenon is the low immunization rate,” Torr said.  

The outbreak in Alberta has seen 16 cases including three that required hospitalization.  

Symptoms of whooping cough start similar to the common cold with a runny nose, sneezing, fever and a mild cough. Over the time period of about a week, the cough will become more severe with heavy coughing spells. Specifically, with young children, the coughing is followed by a ‘whooping’ sound when inhaling.  

Torr said, unlike the common cold, the coughing fits can last for weeks and whooping cough can be quite severe.  

“The illness can also have more serious complications than just that heavy, exhausting coughing all the time, such complications as pneumonia, convulsions, and even brain damage,” he explained.  

If you suspect you have whooping cough call the 811 Healthline or your family physician to book an appointment. Torr said whooping cough is a bacterial infection, so there are antibiotics available, but it isn’t a perfect cure.  

“That will reduce the symptoms like the fever, and then maybe slightly reduce the duration, but there's going to be a lot of coughing, so there is a treatment, but it's not magical that in two days, three days you're fine,” Torr said.  

Torr said the best protection against whooping cough is the vaccine, especially for young children. Generally speaking, children are vaccinated for whooping cough by the age of two. If you have not had your whooping cough vaccination, you can book it through your local public health office.