Fifteen new confirmed cases of whooping cough in the last two weeks in the South Zone prompting Alberta Health Services (AHS) to declare an outbreak of the highly contagious illness.

AHS says there have already been 42 confirmed cases of pertussis in the South Zone in 2019. Last year, there were 58 confirmed cases.

The outbreak also means that those under 16-years old will be restricted from visiting Chinook Regional Hospital and visitors will be limited to two at a time per patient. Anyone with symptoms, including a cough or runny nose, are reminded to not visit when they are ill.

AHS says the restrictions are in place to protect the most vulnerable patients in the neonatal intensive care unit, as well as the labour and delivery, pediatrics and maternity units.

All residents in the South Zone are encouraged to ensure that they and their children are up-to-date on their immunizations, since it’s the most effective method to protect against and limit the spread of pertussis.

Pertussis is a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that may last for weeks, and can impact all age groups. However, infants one year of age and younger are at the greatest risk of serious complications, including pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death.