Washington hospital worker may have exposed hundreds to pertussis

A hospital worker in Everett, Washington, is believed to have potentially exposed hundreds of people to whooping cough.

The Providence Regional Medical Center employee was recently sent home as a precaution after complaining about a cough at the hospital's staff clinic. Test results later confirmed that the employee was infected with whooping cough, or pertussis, according to KomoNews.com.

"He probably had it for about two weeks or slightly more, perhaps," Dr. Ahmet Tural, the head of infectious diseases at PRMC, said, KomoNews.com reports.

Hospital officials said that the infected employee, who was vaccinated against whooping cough, exposed at least 53 coworkers to the illness over the two week period and could have possibly exposed more than 300 additional patients and staff.

Tural said that the pertussis vaccine is not always effective.

"In 20, 25, 30 percent of the cases it may not be fully protective," Tural said, according to KomoNews.com.

PRMC required all of its employees who had direct contact with the infected coworker to begin taking antibiotics.

Zach Roberts, a PRMC employee, said infection is a risk in his line of work, but he believes the hospital is doing the best it can to prevent a larger epidemic.

"It's always a concern," Roberts said, KomoNews.com reports.