FREDERICTON (GNB) – All students in grades 7, 8 and 9 will be immunized this fall for pertussis (whooping cough) under a school-based campaign being continued by New Brunswick Public Health.

"The whooping cough outbreak is ongoing with more than 1,100 confirmed cases in the province, with the majority of cases in the Moncton area (40 per cent), northern New Brunswick (36 per cent) and Fredericton (11 per cent)," said Dr. Eilish Cleary, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health. "Since immunization offers the best protection against the disease and the majority of cases are occurring in the 10- to 14-year-old group, Public Health nurses will visit schools around the province to provide immunizations to all students in grades 7, 8 and 9."

At the end of the last school year, students in grades 6, 7 and 8 in Moncton and Saint John were immunized because most of the cases were reported in these areas at that time. To target the same age group, students in grades 7, 8 and 9 will be immunized this year.

Information about clinics and consent forms for immunization will be distributed to eligible students at the beginning of the school year.

Whooping cough is a disease of the lining of the respiratory tract caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium. It begins with cold-like symptoms, including sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and mild cough. It worsens during several weeks to include serious coughing spells that often end with a "whoop."

Whooping cough is easily transmitted from person to person, mainly through droplets from the nose, mouth and throat of an infected person.

The routine immunization schedule in New Brunswick recommends that children be immunized against whooping cough at two, four, six and 18 months; between the ages of four and six; one dose during adolescence; and one booster as an adult. Cases of pertussis seen in school-age children, adolescents and adults may suggest waning immunity. Intervals between doses are being reviewed by Public Health.

Those who have not been vaccinated during the last five years and are in close, regular contact with children younger than one year of age are encouraged to contact their usual immunization provider and arrange for the vaccine to be administered. Adults who have received immunization with a pertussis containing vaccine as an adult need not be immunized again.

Basic hygiene measures such as regular hand-washing, disposing of tissues properly and containing coughs and sneezes help control the spread of whooping cough.

Individuals who think they or their family members might have whooping cough are encouraged to contact their health-care provider. Those being treated for whooping cough are advised to avoid contact with those who may be at higher risk, particularly children younger than one year of age and pregnant women in their third trimester, until they have taken the medication for five days.


●    Department of Health (Public Health)