Objective: To describe methods of preventing nosocomial pertussis in patients, employees, and visitors to a hospital during a communitywide epidemic in Greater Cincinnati.
Design: Six-month descriptive study of the methods, effectiveness, and cost of a program to prevent nosocomial pertussis.
Setting: Three hundred sixty-one bed, tertiary-care, university, pediatric hospital.
Results: We educated 3,764 hospital employees about pertussis. We evaluated 206 employees with respiratory illnesses, based on clinical presentation, pertussis exposure, and work setting. Eighty-seven had pertussis: 84 coughed for > or = 2 weeks (outbreak clinical case definition), 65 had paroxysms, 27 whooped, 22 had posttussive emesis, and 13 were positive by direct fluorescent antibody or culture for Bordetella pertussis. Seventy-nine employees were sent on 5-day furloughs. Six hundred twenty-two employees received 14 days of erythromycin (579) or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (43). Symptomatic patients were identified at triage in the emergency department and placed in respiratory isolation. Suspect pertussis cases were admitted in respiratory isolation. Among 49 toddlers who were given erythromycin and managed in "coughing respiratory cohorts," eight had proven pertussis. Inpatients were restricted to assigned nursing units. Respiratory masks were required for those entering the test referral center, where more than 3,500 pertussis cultures were performed. Hospitalwide visitor restriction was enforced for those aged 14 years or younger and for those with respiratory symptoms. Only parents and guardians were permitted to visit the newborn intensive care unit. A child-care service managed 488 inpatient sibling visitors. Four symptomatic children in the employees' child-care center were excluded pending physician evaluation; one had pertussis.
Conclusions: Control measures appeared effective. Pertussis occurred in 87 (2%) employees. Among 102 children hospitalized with pertussis, respiratory isolation was delayed in nine cases, and one case was nosocomial. Program expenses totalled $85,400. Adult booster immunization with acellular pertussis vaccine might represent the safest and least expensive strategy for preventing epidemic pertussis, and controlled trials of acellular pertussis vaccine in hospital employees are needed.