Memo

Pertussis Epidemic and Immunization Requirement
Hospitals might consider beginning employee Tdap immunization program early

On June 23, California health authorities declared an epidemic of pertussis, or whooping cough, in the state. Since January, the state has confirmed 910 whooping cough cases and five infant deaths resulting from the highly contagious respiratory disease. Authorities are investigating 600 additional cases that could be classified as pertussis.

The number of confirmed cases is more than four times higher than the number recorded at this point in 2009, putting the state on pace for the worst outbreak of the disease in 50 years.

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director Mark Horton called for children to be vaccinated against whooping cough, and urged parents, family members and caregivers of infants to obtain a booster shot.

Recent CalOSHA Aerosol Transmissible Disease Standard regulations require hospitals, beginning September 1, 2010, to provide Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) immunizations for staff who may be exposed to pertussis. In light of this epidemic, hospitals might consider beginning their employee Tdap immunization program earlier. Employees who decline to be vaccinated must sign a declination form.

CDPH will initiate a short-term (likely through September 30, 2010) Tdap project to make additional Tdap vaccine available to birthing hospitals to immunize postpartum women and their close household contacts. For more information on the Tdap program, go to www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/immunize/Pages/TdapExpansionProgram.aspx.

Gilberto Chavez, deputy director of the CDPH Center for Infectious Disease, warned that the peak season for whooping cough begins in the summer, meaning the worst may be yet to come. For more information and resources for hospitals, visit the CDPH Immunization Branch website at www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/immunize/Pages/Default.aspx.

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