Pertussis or whooping cough is a respiratory infection that is easily spread through coughing and sneezing. This disease can be contracted by inhaling nose and throat droplets from those who are infected. The persistent cough can last up to 10 weeks. Infected people can pass on this highly contagious bacteria not knowing they are infected.
To diagnose pertussis, a throat swab and clinic assessment must be performed. Your health care provider will also consider your possible exposure to an infected person and will review your signs and symptoms. This highly contagious disease has been found in 10-20% of adults and adolescents with a cough illness lasting seven or more days without improvement.
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, cyclical peaks occur every 3-5 years. Since 2012, pertussis incidence in BC has continued an increasing trend in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health Authorities, Vancouver Island Health Authority and the Northern Health Authority regions of BC.
In British Columbia and across Canada, infants receive a pertussis vaccine in their basic vaccine schedules. In British Columbia, any child born in 1989 or later receives a booster dose in grade 9 as part of their basic vaccine series.
Pertussis is not going away
Lower vaccination uptake rates, missed booster doses and waning immunity contribute to clusters of pertussis outbreaks in Canada and in international destinations.
Why do I need this vaccine if I had all my vaccines when I was a child?
The effectiveness of the childhood pertussis vaccine can decrease over time. Adults who acquired the natural disease as a child will also have decreased immunity. An adult booster dose of pertussis is recommended according to the current recommendations from the BC Centre for Disease Control.
What if I just received a tetanus shot?
The tetanus diphtheria (Td) vaccine is recommended every ten years even if you never left Canada. This vaccine is often administered in hospital emergency departments, walk in clinics or at a doctor’s office when skin is broken and it is unknown whether a recent Td vaccine has been received. This vaccine is covered by the Medical Services Plan (MSP) in British Columbia.
Pertussis is administered in a vaccine that also contains tetanus and diphtheria. However, you would not receive a pertussis containing vaccination with a routine tetanus diphtheria vaccination as it is not covered by MSP even though it is recommended.
If you have recently received a tetanus containing vaccine, there is no minimal interval between a Td and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. It is recommended you receive (Tdap) vaccine to ensure you are protected for pertussis.
Family planning | Grandparents | Aunts and Uncles
Adults are a major source of transmission to infants. Household contacts are responsible for 75-80% of pertussis transmission to susceptible infants. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, cousins, and care-takers can transmit pertussis to vulnerable infants in the first few months of life. Infants do not develop adequate levels of immunity until they receive their third vaccination at six months of age. The most serious complications occur in this vulnerable age group. Couples planning a family should ensure they receive Tdap before their infant’s due date.
Pertussis cases also occur outside Canada in common international destinations. According to the Centre for Disease Control Atlanta, ‘pertussis is endemic worldwide, even in areas with high vaccination rates.’ In developing countries vaccination coverage is low. Receiving pertussis vaccine before your departure will provide you protection before you depart and is also an opportune time to receive your Td booster.
Pertussis is a concern as it is currently one of the most prevalent vaccine-preventable diseases in Canada. This vaccination is recommended for adults remaining in Canada and travelling to all destinations worldwide including the United States.