Swedish Medical Center is expanding its investigation of possible exposures to the pertussis (whooping cough) bacteria

As a precautionary measure, Swedish Medical Center is expanding its investigation of possible exposures to the pertussis (whooping cough) bacteria to include additional patients and employees.

The investigation is now being widened to include a specific group of patients in the Women and Infants Center at the Swedish/First Hill Campus. The medical center today will begin contacting up to 200 obstetrics (OB) patients who may have been exposed to the bacteria between July 12-26.

The initial investigation began yesterday to identify possible exposures in the Emergency Department at the First Hill campus. As a result of that investigation, Swedish learned that the bacteria may have been transmitted to two other health-care providers who worked intermittently on the OB unit. The transmissions are likely to have occurred outside the hospital setting. To date, there is no evidence of transmission within the hospital.

While only a very small percentage of the patients being contacted are likely to test positive for the illness, the medical center is taking every precaution and asking them to come in for screening and treatment.

"In the best interest of our patients, we are being extraordinarily cautious and want to make sure there is no opportunity for transmission. Because whooping cough is highly contagious, it's important we contain the situation as quickly as possible," said Martin Siegel, M.D., medical director of Epidemiology at Swedish.

Swedish has opened a special clinic adjacent to the First Hill Emergency Department at 700 Minor Ave. and is asking patients who have been contacted to come to the clinic for evaluation and protective doses of antibiotics. Swedish has also established a special whooping cough hotline; that number is (206) 215-2621.

Please note that not all Swedish OB patients are at risk for exposure. The medical center has identified the specific population who may have been exposed and is in the process of contacting them. Unless patients are contacted by Swedish, they should not consider themselves at risk.

Employees in the Women and Infants Center are being contacted beginning today to determine which staff members may have had direct contact with the two health-care workers in question. Those who have had direct contact will be appropriately screened and treated.

The initial investigation began yesterday with 107 patients in the First Hill Emergency Department. As of this morning, Swedish had contacted all but 10 of those patients.

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