Three hospital outbreaks of whooping cough occurred in 2003 among healthcare workers and patients, officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
Dr. K. Bryant, at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, and colleagues describe the outbreaks that occurred in hospitals in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Oregon in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.In the Kentucky outbreak, the first recognized case was a 2-month-old infant who had been hospitalized since birth. Four nurses in the intermediate care nursery were potential sources of the infection, and one doctor in contact with the infant also contracted the disease. Seventy-two exposed patients and 72 healthcare workers were subsequently given preventative antibiotic treatment.In the Pennsylvania outbreak, a 3-week-old infant admitted to one hospital and then transferred to another was the initial case. Eight healthcare workers exposed to the infant and nine of their professional contacts developed a cough illness that was likely pertussis, or whooping cough. A total of 307 close contacts underwent preventative treatment.In the Oregon outbreak, a doctor caught pertussis from a 12-month-old despite having worn a mask while providing care. The hospital infection-control program identified 129 close contacts of this physician who were offered prophylactic therapy. Three other healthcare workers were also diagnosed, and screening identified 90 of their contacts who also contracted a cough illness of at least 1 week’s duration.In the report, healthcare workers are advised to keep coughing patients at least 3 feet from other people, and they should implement precautions that include surgical masks and hand washing. Isolation is recommended for confirmed and suspected cases of pertussis.In the same issue, Dr. M. Romano at West Virginia University school of Medicine in Morgantown and associates report the case of a 29-day-old infant who died from whooping cough after exposure to adult family members with probable pertussis.According to the authors, the public should be more aware of the need to prevent infants from being exposed to anyone with a cough illness.(Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Reuters Health, January 28, 2005.)