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Preventing a Pertussis Outbreak

posted on Tue, Jun 10 2014 1:55 pm by Mid-States Region

A local health department recently contacted its state health department for guidance regarding a nanny who was exposed to pertussis, or whooping cough, while providing child care for one family, then may have exposed a second family to the disease. The nanny refuses to identify the second family and the local health department is unable to take steps to stop the spread of the disease. The state health department reached out to the Network to help think through options that will allow the local health department to intervene.

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial disease. Symptoms can include severe coughing, and be fatal in infants and young children. It’s estimated that approximately 195,000 children die from pertussis globally each year.

The Network researched the issue and provided three options for the local health department to pursue in compelling the nanny to identify the family at risk.

First, the local health department may issue an imminent danger order pursuant to state public health code. That code makes violation of a local health officer’s order a misdemeanor. If the individual refuses to comply with the order, then the health officer may need to go to court to enforce it.

The local health department may also choose to go immediately to court to request an order requiring the nanny to identify the family that she may have exposed to pertussis.

The final option is to issue a warning notice against the nanny as a carrier of the disease who is conducting herself in a manner that endangers others.