Pertussis Outbreak Investigation Update

DATE: May 11, 2006
Contact: Communication Office
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health continues to work closely with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and with two hospitals serving Vermonters Ð Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH, and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) in Bennington, VT in investigating and responding to an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough).

To date, a total of 120 staff - including 50 Vermonters - have been identified with pertussis at DHMC. The outbreak is not restricted to the hospitals as several cases have also been identified or are under investigation among Vermonters in the White River Junction area.

Possible cases are also under investigation, although no cases have currently been confirmed by laboratory tests, in staff affiliated with SVMC and within the communities surrounding SVMC.

No other hospitals in Vermont are reporting cases of pertussis.

"Both hospitals should be commended for their comprehensive response. Early intervention is key to slowing or halting the spread of this infection within a hospital setting and the community at-large," said Dr. Cort Lohff, MD, state epidemiologist for the Vermont Department of Health.

Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is a contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract. Typical symptoms include a persistent cough following cold-like symptoms. Coughing often occurs in bursts that may be followed by a whooping sound or by vomiting. Antibiotics are given to treat the infection.

Though a vaccine is widely used in young children, the protection (or immunity) gained from this decreases over time, leaving adolescents and adults at risk for getting this infection. They in turn can spread this infection to infants who are most vulnerable to severe complications.

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

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