Monday, December 16, 2013

Occupational Exposures to Pertussis: Coughing Up Some Concerning Data

Photo by COD Newsroom via Flickr
If we are aware of an outbreak or even an individual case of pertussis in the community in which we work, and infection prevention control guidelines have been implemented, can we still put ourselves or others at risk for developing pertussis? Unfortunately the answer is yes and more often than you might suspect based on a study by Kuncio et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-0745) that we are early releasing this week.

The authors looked at data from occupational health and infection control records in a large quaternary pediatric care network from 2002 through 2011 and then looked at electronic health record data to find the pertussis cases not documented in the occupational health records. Sadly, almost half of the health care worker cases confirmed during an outbreak had no occupational health investigations despite the health care worker having been exposed to index cases of the infection. In what setting did these exposures occur and go untracked? Why weren't index cases able to better identify subsequent healthcare worker exposures?

You will not whoop with joy when you read this troubling study—but you will want to review your infection control policies when you do have an index case of pertussis to make sure steps are followed to not unnecessarily expose you or your fellow colleagues in the office, emergency room, or inpatient setting to this contagious organism.

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