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In September 1999, a pertussis outbreak was detected among surgical staff of a 138-bed community hospital. Patients were exposed to Bordetella pertussis during the 3-month outbreak period.
To describe the outbreak among surgical staff, to evaluate implemented control measures, and to determine whether nosocomial transmission occurred.
Clinical pertussis was defined as acute cough illness with a duration of 14 days or more without another apparent cause; persons with positive culture, PCR, or serologic test results were defined as having laboratory-confirmed pertussis. Surgical healthcare workers (HCWs) were interviewed regarding pertussis symptoms, and specimens were obtained for laboratory analysis. Patients exposed to B. pertussis during an ill staff member's 3-week infectious period were interviewed by phone to determine the extent of nosocomial spread.
A total of 53 HCWs assigned to the surgical unit and 146 exposed patients. HCWs with pertussis were defined as case subjects; HCWs without pertussis were defined as non-case subjects.
Twelve (23%) of 53 HCWs had clinical pertussis; 6 cases were laboratory confirmed. The median cough duration in the 12 case subjects was 27 days (range, 20-120 days); 10 (83%) had paroxysms. Eleven (92%) of 12 case subjects and 28 (86%) of 41 non-case subjects received antibiotic treatment or prophylaxis. Seven case subjects (58%) reported they always wore a mask when near patients. Of 146 patients potentially exposed to pertussis from the 12 case subjects, 120 (82%) were interviewed; none reported a pertussis-like illness.
Surgical staff transmitted B. pertussis among themselves; self-reported data suggests that these HCWs did not transmit B. pertussis to their patients, likely because of mask use, cough etiquette, and limited face-to-face contact. Control measures might have helped limit the outbreak once pertussis was recognized.
During a hospital obstetric rotation, a medical student demonstrated classic symptoms of pertussis. The diagnosis was confirmed by isolation of Bordetella pertussis. Because this exposure occurred in a high-risk hospital setting, control measures were undertaken to prevent transmission and illness.
To identify secondary cases of pertussis, to determine compliance with chemoprophylaxis recommendations, and to monitor for adverse events associated with chemoprophylaxis following a hospital exposure to pertussis.
More than 500 individuals were potentially exposed, including 168 neonates; antimicrobial chemoprophylaxis was administered to 281 individuals. Fifty-eight neonates and 194 adults began azithromycin chemoprophylaxis; 18 neonates and 2 adults began erythromycin chemoprophylaxis.
Active surveillance was instituted for (1) secondary cases of pertussis among healthcare coworkers, obstetric patients, their neonates, and labor companions and (2) antibiotic compliance and tolerance.
No secondary cases of pertussis were confirmed by laboratory tests; however, 26 suspected cases and 5 clinically compatible cases were identified. Antibiotic courses were completed by 95% of the individuals who initiated therapy. Neonates taking azithromycin had statistically significantly less gastrointestinal distress compared with neonates taking erythromycin (12% vs 50%; P = .002); there were no cases of infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis.
Although it was not possible to assess the effectiveness of the antibiotic regimens, the lack of laboratory-confirmed secondary cases suggests control measures were successful. Data from the 58 neonates who received azithromycin suggest it may be well tolerated in this age group.
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