VANCOUVER — Syrian refugee children diagnosed with whooping cough after arriving in Canada may have exposed other refugees staying at the same hotel before moving on to different locations across the country.
A notice from Fraser Health, which serves B.C.’s Lower Mainland, urged health care providers in the region to be on the lookout for newly arrived patients showing signs of the illness, also known as pertussis.
The notice, dated Feb. 29, explained the children arrived in Montreal Feb. 16, on a flight transporting refugees from Jordan to Canada. While the children showed signs of respiratory issues when they arrived, they weren’t diagnosed until later.
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The children, the notice reads, would have exposed other refugees to the illness while staying in the same Montreal hotel before moving on to other communities Ontario, Nova Scotia and in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
The notice specifically mentioned the Lower Mainland communities of Aldergrove and Guildford.
Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma told Global News those communities were singled out because they have received refugees from the affected hotel.
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But, Juma said there were “no confirmed cases of pertussis among Syrian refugees in our region and this is just a very precautionary measure.”
The Nova Scotia Health Authority would not provide Global News with the exact number of cases of refugees who may have been exposed to pertussis before arriving in the province, but said the impact from this situation was minimal.
Ontario’s Department of Health did not get back to Global News in time for publication.
Fraser Health noted many of the Syrians who arrived in Canada in the past months, at the federal government reached its goal of resettling 25,000 refugees by the end of last month, may not have vaccinations against preventable illnesses such as pertussis.
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“Health care providers should notify public health immediately if they suspect a reportable communicable disease,” Fraser Health officials said in the notice.
“If you suspect other infectious diseases in a Syrian Refugee where the exposure was likely prior to the their arrival to Canada, these should also be reported to public health so that they can be referred on to the Public Health Agency of Canada.”
The health authority also urged health care providers to direct newly arrived Syrian refugees to local public health offices so they can get up to date on vaccinations.