VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A whooping cough outbreak is hitting the community of Hope and medical professionals say it will inevitably hit the rest of the Lower Mainland.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder with Fraser Health says there are a series of TV ads in the works right now to warn people.  “We’d like you to get the vaccination now before it gets here rather than when we’re in the middle of an outbreak.  And that’s a program we’ll roll out early in the New Year.”

There have been about four to five dozen cases reported in the small community.  “We’ve been worried about this for quite some time.  We’ve been working with colleagues in Vancouver Coastal Health and we’ve been working with vaccine companies to make sure there is plenty of vaccine.”

Van Buynder says the disease comes back every four or five years. There hasn’t been an outbreak in BC for close to eight to 10 years. Most people in the Fraser Valley are not immune. In the past few years, there have been cases in California, Saskatchewan, and Washington.

General practitioners in Hope are being asked to give antibiotics when they see early cases. Contacts, including families, are also being given drugs in the hopes it will stop transmission. Preventative, free vaccines are being given out to adults in the community who are in close contact with children. Infant vaccine is being moved forward, so they get it a little bit earlier than normal.

Some of the cases have been reported on native reserves, something Van Buynder says is troubling. “We’ve had a lot of support from people involved in the First Nations community and there’s a very big meeting in Hope Thursday, involving Fraser Health and First Nations staff.”

In adults, the coughing can last for weeks and can keep people up at night. Symptoms include severe coughing fits, with a “whooping” sound.

Whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, or the 100 days’ cough, is highly contagious and can be deadly for young infants. About half the children under the age of one with Pertussis will end up hospitalized.