There is more than one confirmed case of whooping cough in the Cowichan Valley and staff at both Khowhemun and Alexander Elementary have sent students home with health notices.

Whooping cough has symptoms that are similar to the common cold, but the difference is this is a severe cough with a whooping sound that can be a precursor to vomiting or gagging.

Medical Health Officer Shannon Waters said people who believe they may have come into contact with whooping cough are asked to visit their local health unit.

“It is going around so if you think you’ve been exposed to whooping cough, that’s important to mention to the health care provider you see,” said Waters. “It might not always be something that’s top-of-mind with other colds going around this time of year.”

Communications Manager with School District 79 Mike Russell said exposure likely occurred at the Strong Start program.

“Specifically those who visited the Strong Start program between September 12 and October 17,” said Russell. “That’s when the possible exposure to whooping cough might have occurred.”

With a few flu bugs floating around these days, it can be easy to downplay an illness that is, in fact, whooping cough, and Waters said it’s a severe cough that can last for quite some time.

“It can look like a lot of other things people can catch during the winter season, but with whooping cough, this can progress to a severe cough with a distinctive whooping sound,” said Waters. “Sometimes people actually gag or vomit afterwards and the illness can last for several weeks.”

The basic flu shots don’t include immunization against whooping cough.

Those who are most vulnerable to whooping cough are infants under one-year-old and pregnant women in the third trimester.