Vitalité warns of possible whooping cough exposures in Grand Falls, Edmundston

Vitalité Health Network is warning about a number of possible exposures to confirmed cases of whooping cough at the emergency departments in Grand Falls and Edmundston in recent weeks.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious disease of the lungs and throat.

The possible exposures occurred at the Grand Falls General Hospital's ER on June 10, between 7:25 p.m. and 9 p.m., and overnight June 19, between 11:56 p.m. and 1:15 a.m.

Possible exposures also occurred at the Edmundston Regional Hospital's ER overnight June 15, between 7:40 p.m. and 12:10 a.m., and on June 18, between 12:40 p.m and 8:40 p.m., according to a news release issued Monday afternoon.

Patients and health-care workers who visited these ERs at the specified dates and times are advised to monitor for symptoms for up to 21 days after their visit, the notice says.

There are currently two confirmed cases of whooping cough in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, a Vitalité spokesperson told CBC News.

Dr. Arifur Rahman, acting deputy chief medical officer of health, reviews some COVID-19 data at the Department of Health offices in Fredericton on Tuesday.

Department of Health officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how many confirmed cases there are in the province. Five cases were reported in New Brunswick last year.

Whooping cough starts like a cold with sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a cough that gets worse over the next week or two, leading to coughing spells that often end with a "whooping" sound.

The disease is easily transmitted, mainly through droplets from the nose, mouth and throat of an infected person. If left untreated, a person with whooping cough can spread it to others for up to three weeks after the onset of cough.

Memo to parents June 18 encouraged vaccinations

The warning comes about a week after Dr. Arifur Rahman, the province's acting deputy chief medical officer of health, sent a memo to parents through school districts, advising that Public Health was "monitoring recent increases in several communicable diseases, like measles and pertussis (whooping cough), in Canada and internationally."

The memo, dated June 18, made no mention of any confirmed cases in the province.

"Keeping vaccinations up to date is the best way to protect you and your child(ren) from a number of serious diseases," said Rahman.

He encouraged parents to check the vaccine status of their entire family before attending any summer camps or travelling.

Anyone who needs an additional publicly funded dose can visit their primary care provider, while Public Health offices provide free doses for infants, children, adolescents, and sometimes adults.