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WBHHS notifies small group of staff and patients of possible risk of pertussis

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.

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 pertussis symptoms are similar to an upper respiratory infection.

The best protection against pertussis 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 pertussis since January 1st, which is only slightly above the average number from the previous five years.

Information about pertussis is available at:

Background information

Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the airways. It can affect people of any age, however it can cause serious infection in babies.  It usually begins like a cold, with runny nose, tiredness, mild fever and cough. The cough gets worse and bouts of persistent coughing can develop where the cough is followed by vomiting or gagging. Pertussis infection in babies can cause feeding problems and breathing difficulties, and complications such as pneumonia.

On average, pertussis takes 7 to 10 days to incubate (that is, the time between having contact with someone with pertussis and developing infection), however it can be as short as 4 days and as long as 3 weeks.

The best protection against pertussis is vaccination, however it is not 100% effective and the effect wanes over time. Women are recommended vaccination in pregnancy, as this provides optimal protection for newborn babies until they are old enough to be vaccinated.  Vaccination is given to infants at 2, 4 and 6 months, with boosters at 18 months and 4 years. Teenagers are also given a booster in Year 7 through the School Immunisation Program.

Last updated: 26 July 2019