Hospital worker may have exposed hundreds to whooping cough

Hospital worker may have exposed hundreds to whooping cough »Play Video
EVERETT, Wash. -- Providence Hospital officials say one of their own workers may have exposed hundreds of people to whooping cough, and now they're notifying employees and patients to get help immediately.

Providence Regional Medical Center has been ground zero for the treatment of pertussis, or whooping cough. But this week it became ground zero for a new potential outbreak.

Doctor Ahmet Tural is the head of infectious disease at the hospital. He said a hospital employee went to the staff clinic last week complaining of a nasty cough. He was sent home as a precaution, and on Monday his test results came back positive for whooping cough.

"He probably had it for about two weeks or slightly more, perhaps," Tural said.

That means the employee had two weeks of direct contact with patients and fellow employees at the hospital. Officials believe at least 53 employees have been exposed to the illness, but that number could end up being more than 300 after factoring in patients and visitors.

The hospital has been proactive.

"If they had direct exposure, then we automatically require them to be put on antibiotics," said Providence official Teresa Wenta.

The worker in question thought he had been proactive, too. He was vaccinated against pertussis, but it wasn't effective.

Tural said sometimes the vaccination just doesn't work.

"In 20, 25, 30 percent of the cases it may not be fully protective," he said.

Nearly 3,000 cases of whooping cough have been reported this year alone, and around 140 of those have come in the past week. At this point last year, only 200 cases had been reported.

Providence employees such as Zach Roberts say infection is part of the risk of medical work.

"It's always a concern," he said.

Roberts said Providence is doing the best it can against the stacked deck of an epidemic.

"Definitely preventative measures that at least as an employee make me feel safe enough to not have to worry about it," he said.

Rules, procedures and safety will help, but officials say when treating an epidemic like this one, containment may be the best option.
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Cynthia Parker 5 pts

People need to come to terms with facts on the ground. The pertussis vaccine is not very effective. My daughter got the DTaP at 2, 4, and 6 months, and then caught pertussis at a La Leche League meeting when she was eight months old, and gave it to me. The disease has evolved in the last century to become much milder than it used to be, and it is not usually a dangerous disease in those over four months old. We had coughing fits with ten coughs per breath, my daughter coughed up sheets of mucus at the end of the fit, she coughed over a month, I coughed over two months,  and then we got well, with several decades worth of immunity, at least. Infants have it worse because their airways aren't very developed, and it may be that as many as one in a hundred of those who get the disease as newborns may die. The vaccine doesn't protect infants in the first few months of life at all. Since the vaccine is not very effective, the only way to protect infants is to quarantine them at home in the first months of life. Antibiotics do nothing to treat the disease once the coughing has started. Infants must be held in an upright position during coughing fits, kept warm, and given Pertudoron 1 and 2 and vitamin C. Dr. Suzanne Humphries has written an article about the treatment of pertussis in babies.


There is no reason for the panic shown here. Pertussis peaks in numbers of cases about every 44 months, and then goes down again, regardless of vaccination numbers or treatment. Most people can just ride out the disease and make a full recovery. The vaccine causes autism, allergies, asthma, seizure disorders, and SIDS, just the way its even more deadly predecessor, the DPT, did. The disease is preferable to the vaccine.