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Whooping Cough Spreads from a Massachusetts Hospital

After the hunt for those who might have traveled in the company of Andrew Speaker, the man who carries a drug-resistant TB, it is now a search in the US for those who might have been exposed to pertussis or whooping cough.

After a staff member at the Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis was diagnosed with pertussia the hospital authorities went on high alert. There is also one suspected case and one probable case. The hospital determined that the staff members may have been contagious between May 17 and June 6. Those who may have been exposed were contacted by the hospital on Friday. The list includes patients, family, friends and staff members.

Anyone who was a patient in the oncology clinic at the hospital between those dates or accompanied a patient into an exam room at the clinic between those dates was advised to go the oncology clinic between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. beginning June 11 and report to the desk marked Infection Control. They were to be registered and given information on pertussis and the antibiotic.

Hospital officials stressed they were being extremely cautious about the possible spread of whooping cough. Pertussis is transmitted by coughing during the first two weeks of symptoms, said Dr. Alan Sugar, an epidemiologist at Cape Cod Hospital in a Friday afternoon news conference at the hospital.

We are very confident we dont need to go any earlier than May 17 to identify everyone at risk for this exposure, Sugar said. An auditor in the Cape Cod Hospital oncology department began showing symptoms of pertussis in May and went to her primary care physician where she was given antibiotics. She did not have contact with patients in the oncology department. The second case involved a CCH nurse. On June 6, a staff member in the oncology department began showing symptoms of pertussis.

The concern is mainly that infants will be exposed to the disease. In healthy adults, this is not a disease t hat will result in death, said Dr. David Lovett, an oncologist at CCH. Lovett said there is concern that cancer patients or others with compromised immune systems may be at greater risk for complications.

The incidence of pertussis has been increasing in the United States with 25,000 cases a year. Outbreaks tend to occur every 3-5 years. The increase in pertussis has occurred largely because adults who were immunized as children are losing their immunity and they are transmitting it to children who have not been immunized or have been only partly immunized.

Infants generally receive the DTaP vaccine against pertussis beginning when the child is between six weeks and two months of age. Adults are often given a booster shot of anti-pertussis vaccine when they receive tetanus shots.


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