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.

Source: Komo News, 4th July 2012.

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