Infant Pertussis Outbreak Traced to Hospital Worker

June 10, 2008

An outbreak of pertussis in the summer of 2004 in 11 infants born in a Texas hospital was linked to a health care worker at the hospital's newborn nursery with the illness, according to a report in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's June 6 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

TUESDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- An outbreak of pertussis in the summer of 2004 in 11 infants born in a Texas hospital was linked to a health care worker at the hospital's newborn nursery with the illness, according to a report in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's June 6 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Personnel of a Texas children's hospital noted that six infants with confirmed pertussis had all been born in June at the same general hospital; staff members from the unidentified children's hospital report the details of the outbreak in the journal.

An investigation found that a health care worker in the nursery of the general hospital had cared for infants while exhibiting symptoms of pertussis. She tested positive for the illness through polymerase chain reaction testing and was furloughed on July 17 for treatment. A further records review at the children's hospital found that a total of 11 infants born at the general hospital who had been exposed to the worker -- including the original six -- met the case definition for pertussis. After the worker was furloughed and treated, no new cases among infants born at the general hospital were identified in the following months.

"This outbreak…highlights the importance of rapid recognition of pertussis transmission in health care settings and rapid response from hospital and public health practitioners to identify the source and prevent more extensive spread of disease, particularly among vulnerable newborns and infants," write the authors of an accompanying editorial note.

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