Bundaberg Base Hospital.
Bundaberg Base Hospital. Brian Cassidy

Bundaberg Hospital employee tests positive to whooping cough

WIDE Bay Hospital and Health Service is notifying a very small number of staff and patients who had direct or indirect contact with a Bundaberg Hospital Family Unit team member who tested positive for pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

Overnight, WBHHS began communication and offered antibiotic medication to other staff and just one patient who were identified as being in close contact with the team member between April 12th and 14th.

No newborn was in direct contact with the staff member who tested positive.

Contact is also being made with other patients and staff to ensure they are aware of any possible symptoms.

Wide Bay Public Health Physician Dr Margaret Young said the limited and defined group of people in close contact and the thoroughness of WBHHS's precautionary measures meant the risk of further exposure was minimised.

"To be considered at risk of exposure to pertussis, people need to be within one metre of the infectious person for more than an hour, which has limited the number of staff and patients who were possibly exposed," Dr Young said.

"Late yesterday our team quickly identified those staff and patients who had close contact and they started providing them with antibiotic medication.

"As a precautionary measure our team is also calling all mothers and staff who have been at the family unit since April 12th, though they have a very low risk for exposure.

"Also as a precautionary measure, any family unit staff with upper respiratory infection like symptoms are not being rostered on shifts until they are tested and cleared.

"It's worth remembering expectant mothers are provided with pertussis vaccination during their third trimester to protect themselves and their newborns, thus lowering their level of risk, while our staff also are required to be vaccinated upon employment."

Initial whooping cough symptoms are similar to an upper respiratory infection.

The best protection against whooping cough is vaccination, however it is not 100% effective and the effect wanes over time. The affected team member had been appropriately vaccinated.

Across the Wide Bay there have been 16 laboratory-confirmed cases of whooping cough since January 1st, which is only slightly above the average number from the previous five years.

Information about pertussis is available at: http://conditions.health.qld.gov.au/HealthCondition/condition/14/33/150/whooping-cough-pertussis