A healthcare worker with whooping cough has been in contact with dozens of mothers and their children in Melbourne, alarming families who fear an outbreak of the potentially deadly disease.
The City of Melbourne has been urging parents and babies with symptoms of the highly contagious infection to get tested after an employee of its Carlton and North Melbourne maternal and child health centres was diagnosed with it two weeks ago.
In a letter sent to a Melbourne mother who has been receiving home visits from a nurse to check her infant, the council said it was notified of the whooping cough case on August 13. The letter dated August 14 said the mother and her child had been in contact with the infected person between July 14 and July 29.
Whooping cough (Pertussis) kills one in 200 babies it infects, partly because infants do not start receiving vaccinations until they are two months old. It is spread through droplets from coughing or sneezing. The time from infection to symptoms, which include a runny nose and cough, is between six and 20 days.
A person is infectious for the first three weeks of their cough or until they’ve had five days of a 10-day course of antibiotics.
A spokeswoman for the council said 46 children, including 15 who were not immunised because they were too young, had been in contact with the staff member between the first symptoms appearing and the staff member going on leave.
The spokeswoman said the council contacted parents as soon as possible by email, letter or phone to notify them of symptoms and an out-of-hours number for GP advice.
“The GP received several calls seeking advice. No case of pertussis has been confirmed in any of these children,” she said.
“Boosters are required for adults every 10 years. The staff member was appropriately immunised and last received a booster five years ago.”
Whooping cough vaccines do not offer complete protection against the disease and the vaccine’s effect wears off over time. A department of health spokesman confirmed the employee was a healthcare worker.
The Melbourne mother who received the letter said she was extremely distressed by it because her only contact with the centres was a home visit from a nurse who was coughing when she examined her infant. The nurse said she had hay fever at the time.
The concerned mother said her baby had since fallen ill with a cough and runny nose, but tested negative to whooping cough on Tuesday.
When the mother contacted the council to ask more about it this week, she said the call taker was evasive, but left her with the impression the employee was a nurse. The mother said she was angry about the procedure to notify parents because she had been staying with a relative when a letter and email arrived from the council a week earlier.
“They had my mobile number… If they called, they did not leave a message,” she said.
There have been 2908 cases of whooping cough in Victoria this year – up from 2157 cases at the same time last year.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/dozens-of-children-exposed-to-healthcare-worker-with-whooping-cough-in-melbourne-20150827-gj9gnl.html#ixzz3ygjAgdNU
Follow us: @theage on Twitter | theageAustralia on Facebook