Whooping cough outbreak hits A&E

Forth Valley Royal Hospital
Forth Valley Royal Hospital
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The showpiece £300 million Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert has been hit by an outbreak of whooping cough.

Two members of staff working in the emergency department are confirmed cases and two of their colleagues are suspected of having the infection.

Bosses at NHS Forth Valley have reviewed attendances at the department between August 18 and September 7 to identify any patients who may be at risk.

As a precaution, the rest of the department and the parents of 25 babies under the age of six months are being offered a short course of antibiotics.

Dr Henry Prempeh, consultant in public health medicine, said: “The chances of contracting the illness from a member of staff is relatively low.

“However we are offering patients who are at a higher risk from the infection follow- up treatment as an extra precaution.

“The risk to other patients who attended the emergency department is very low, but should anyone have concerns about whooping cough they should contact their GP or NHS 24 for advice.”

Whooping cough is usually a relatively mild illness which does not normally pose a serious health risk. The incubation period - when an individual might not show any symptoms but could be infectious to others - is up to 21 days.

More than 1000 cases of whooping cough have been reported by GPs across Scotland since the start of the year. The early signs are often similar to those of the common cold and might include: runny or blocked nose; sneezing; watering eyes; dry, irritating cough; sore throat; slightly raised temperature; feeling generally unwell.

These symptoms can last for a week to 10 days before being followed by intense bouts of coughing characterised with a ‘whoop’ sound made after each sharp intake of breath after coughing.

In adults and older children whooping cough does not normally pose a serious health issue, but can pose a more serious threat to very young children, especially babies under the age of six months who may not yet be fully immunised against the infection as they are usually given three seperate vaccinations carried out at two, three and four months.

A short course of antibiotics destroys the bacteria if it is present. Babies who have not completed the full course of immunisations for their age would also be offered a catch-up vaccine.

The NHS 24 number is 0845 4242424.

In England and Wales the Department of Health is so concerned about the rise in the number of cases, 3513 so far this year, it is considering vaccinating newborn babies and even providing booster jabs for pregnant women and teenagers.​​