Eastern Ontario Health Unit warns of rise in whooping cough

Whooping cough begins with cold-like symptoms, but can worsen to serious coughing spells that end with a kind of whopping or wheezing sound. (Shutterstock / SpeedKingz - image credit)
Whooping cough begins with cold-like symptoms, but can worsen to serious coughing spells that end with a kind of whopping or wheezing sound. (Shutterstock / SpeedKingz - image credit)

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is reminding the public to ensure they are fully vaccinated against pertussis — also known as whooping cough — as cases are on the rise in the region. EOHU sent the alert Friday.

In a conversation with CBC, EOHU's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said his team wanted to "sound the alarm" because they saw so many cases.

He said Ontario has had 280 reported cases this year, whereas there were 190 reported this time last year. Six cases were within the past week, he said.

In a statement, Ottawa Public Health said there have been eight reported whooping cough cases in the city — more than all of 2023, but still fewer than the pre-pandemic yearly average of 27.

Quebec and New Brunswick have also been dealing with increased whooping cough cases this month.

Doctor Jane Liddle, a local pediatrician and University of Ottawa lecturer, is one of the doctors urging people to check their vaccination records.

"You can have a very mild case of whooping cough and probably be fine. The problem is, you may also be the person who shares it to someone who is highly vulnerable, be it an infant, older person, or someone who is dealing with chronic illness."

Roumeliotis said most of the cases of whooping cough in eastern Ontario have been among people who were unvaccinated.