Surveillance for transmission and antibiotic adverse events among neonates and adults exposed to a healthcare worker with pertussis

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2004 Nov;25(11):967-73. doi: 10.1086/502328.


Background: During a hospital obstetric rotation, a medical student demonstrated classic symptoms of pertussis. The diagnosis was confirmed by isolation of Bordetella pertussis. Because this exposure occurred in a high-risk hospital setting, control measures were undertaken to prevent transmission and illness.

Objectives: To identify secondary cases of pertussis, to determine compliance with chemoprophylaxis recommendations, and to monitor for adverse events associated with chemoprophylaxis following a hospital exposure to pertussis.

Patients: More than 500 individuals were potentially exposed, including 168 neonates; antimicrobial chemoprophylaxis was administered to 281 individuals. Fifty-eight neonates and 194 adults began azithromycin chemoprophylaxis; 18 neonates and 2 adults began erythromycin chemoprophylaxis.

Methods: Active surveillance was instituted for (1) secondary cases of pertussis among healthcare coworkers, obstetric patients, their neonates, and labor companions and (2) antibiotic compliance and tolerance.

Results: No secondary cases of pertussis were confirmed by laboratory tests; however, 26 suspected cases and 5 clinically compatible cases were identified. Antibiotic courses were completed by 95% of the individuals who initiated therapy. Neonates taking azithromycin had statistically significantly less gastrointestinal distress compared with neonates taking erythromycin (12% vs 50%; P = .002); there were no cases of infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis.

Conclusions: Although it was not possible to assess the effectiveness of the antibiotic regimens, the lack of laboratory-confirmed secondary cases suggests control measures were successful. Data from the 58 neonates who received azithromycin suggest it may be well tolerated in this age group.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Bordetella pertussis / isolation & purification
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Professional-to-Patient / analysis
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Professional-to-Patient / prevention & control*
  • Massachusetts
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Postpartum Period / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / microbiology
  • Students, Medical
  • Whooping Cough / drug therapy*
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology
  • Whooping Cough / microbiology
  • Whooping Cough / transmission*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents