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The number of whooping cough cases in Quebec has topped 6,000 since the start of the year, according to the province’s public health director.

In an interview with Le Devoir, Luc Boileau revealed the number of cases, but indicated the number of hospitalizations remains low. He also said there have been no deaths.

Montreal public health authorities warned parents in June about an increase in whooping cough cases in schools. In a note sent to parents at the time, Montreal public health director Mylène Drouin said cases had been confirmed in elementary schools and high schools. Drouin advised that vaccination is the best way to protect against whooping cough.

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The vaccine is free and can be booked through the Clic-Santé portal (clicsante.ca) under the category “adult vaccinations.”

Whooping cough is considered a highly contagious disease, characterized by violent coughing fits. It is caused by a bacterium that spreads through droplets projected into the air by someone with the disease, such as when they cough or sneeze.

The number of reported cases in Quebec usually ranges between 240 and 1,600 a year.

The early symptoms of the disease usually resemble a cold, and may include a low-grade fever, runny nose, red and watery eyes and coughing. After seven to 14 days, the cough intensifies and becomes more frequent. As well, a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like a “whoop” characterizes the disease.

Whooping cough lasts six to 10 weeks, although it can last longer than 10 weeks in adolescents.

According to the Quebec health department, whooping cough cases usually peak every four years. The last major outbreak in the province was in 2019, when 1,259 cases were confirmed.

The illness is most serious in babies younger than one year old. The cough may be mild or absent in babies that young. However, sometimes the main symptom in babies under one year old is apnea, which is the repeated cessation of breathing.

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