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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Friday, June 8, 2007

Cancer clinic workers diagnosed with whooping cough

By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff

Two nurses and an auditor in an outpatient cancer clinic at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis have been diagnosed with whooping cough, hospital and state public health authorities said today.

The hospital is contacting patients potentially exposed to the hospital workers and providing them with antibiotics, said Donna Rheaume, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health.

Whooping cough is a highly infectious bacterial disease transmitted by coughing and sneezing. Typically, the disease arrives with symptoms similar to those of the common cold, but then progresses to spasms of coughing.

At its worst, a rattling, rib-cracking cough can linger for months and cause patients to lose sleep and weight. Studies have shown that 62 percent of adults with pertussis are still coughing three months after symptoms appear.

While symptoms can be persistent, the disease rarely kills otherwise healthy adults. But like any infection, it can pose a more significant threat to patients with chronic illnesses and impaired immune systems -- such as those with cancer.

Children have been routinely vaccinated against whooping cough for decades, but specialists know that the effectiveness of the shot wanes over time, leaving adults and some teens vulnerable to the infection unless they get a booster shot.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 01:23 PM
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