Hospital battles spread of whooping cough
Hospital officials are contacting more than 30 patients who came in contact with the three employees who tested positive for the highly contagious respitory illness, also called pertusis. Some of these patients are already showing symptoms of the dangerous illness.
Children younger than one year of age and the elderly are the most susceptible, but even healthy adults (especially un-immunized adults) can contract the disease leading to a chronic cough. Complications for infants include pneumonia, convulsions, and in rare cases brain damage or death.
"The concern I have is that whooping cought to an infant is going to be very dangerous," said her father, Trey Flynn.
Overlake officials said that a patient apparently brought the illness into the hospital. Three staffers have tested positive but at last count more than 34 mothers and babies were at least exposed.
Doctors are offering preventative antibiotics and hope they have rounded up the illness before it spreads.
Hospital officials have determined the first person to show signs of whooping cough stayed at the facility Sept. 26 - 29. They want to talk to anyone who was in the childbirth center from that time until the first part of this month.
Whooping cough is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. The greatest risk of spread is during the early stage when it appears to be a cold.
Those treated with antibiotics are contagious until the first five days of appropriate antibiotic treatment have been completed.
Symptoms appear between six to 21 days (average 7-10) after exposure to the bacteria.
The disease starts with cold symptoms: runny nose and cough. Sometime in the first two weeks, episodes of severe cough develop and that can last one to two months. The person may look and feel fairly healthy between these episodes.
During the severe coughing stage, seizures or even death can occur, particularly in an infant.
Immunized school children and adults have milder symptoms than young children.
The vaccination against pertussis is included in the DTP and DTaP vaccines. Before age 7, children should get 5 doses of the DTP or DTaP vaccine. These are usually given at 2, 4, 6, and 15-18 months* of age and 4 - 6 years of age. *This 4th dose may be given as early as 12 months of age.
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