Health Officials Respond to Pertussis Outbreak

Vermont Cooperating with N.H. Department of Health and Human Services and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center

DATE: May 4, 2006
Contact: Communication Office
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health alerted the state’s health care providers today about an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough), with the majority of confirmed cases among employees of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH.

The Vermont Department of Health (VDH) and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services are working with DHMC to investigate staff cases at the hospital and likely cases in the community to mitigate and prevent the spread of the disease.

A total of 62 cases have been reported among staff, including 30 Vermonters. Several possible cases among Vermont residents are currently being investigated to determine if the illnesses are pertussis.

“We experience pertussis outbreaks every year, and it is a disease we take very seriously due to the risk of complications in infants, especially those less than twelve months of age,” said Vermont Deputy State Epidemiologist Susan Schoenfeld. “We are encouraging providers to look for pertussis symptoms and we are working to fully update and inform Vermont providers.”

Whooping cough is a contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract, but it is treatable with antibiotics. Symptoms include a persistent cough following cold-like symptoms. Coughing often occurs in bursts that may be followed by a whooping sound or vomiting. Coughing can continue up to 12 weeks. Infants less than 6 months of age may not have a typical cough, but may appear to have difficulty breathing. Pertussis can be hard to diagnose because it often shows symptoms similar to a bad cold, asthma, or bronchitis.

Early intervention and treatment of pertussis is key to limiting transmission. Because pertussis is a highly infectious disease, confirmed cases should be excluded from school and group activities until five days of antibiotic therapy have been completed.

For more information on pertussis visit: http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/pertussis/Pertussis.aspx

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