ASHMONT - Alberta Public Health staff is investigating a confirmed case of Pertussis within Ashmont School.
In a letter addressed to the principal of the school on Jan. 30, Dr. Kristin Klein of Alberta Health Services notes if a child in the school exhibits symptoms or develops a cough in the next three weeks, they should visit their family doctor as soon as possible.
“Pertussis is an infection that is caused by bacteria that circulates normally in the environment,” Klein told the Journal. “So it’s not uncommon for children to get pertussis.”
In addition to taking normal precautions such as staying home when sick, washing hands frequently, and covering your mouth when coughing, Klein recommends the pertussis vaccine for all Albertans. She also notes the vaccine is already a part of a child’s routine childhood immunization schedule.
It is usually a mild illness in older children and adults, according to the letter.
Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis and is only found in humans, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. Signs and symptoms include a runny nose, low-grade fever, mild to occasionally cough and apnea (a pause in breathing) in babies.
Other symptoms include spasms of coughing, which have a characteristic “whoop.” The cough may increase in frequency at night and gagging or vomiting may follow coughing.
Klein’s letter also notes children diagnosed by a doctor as having pertussis must not return to the school and should avoid public gatherings and contact with pregnant women and infants until they have the appropriate antibiotic treatment for five days.
In October of 2019, Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak of pertussis in the western part of AHS’s South Zone, which includes the communities of Lethbridge, Lethbridge County and Raymond.