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HSE probes six nursing home deaths
[Posted: Tue 03/04/2012 www.irishhealth.com]
The health authorities are investigating the cause of death of six residents in a private nursing home in Co. Donegal over the past two weeks.
The deaths at the nursing home in Buncrana may have been due to a respiratory or flu-type illness. A further 27 people are being treated for the respiratory type illness at the nursing home and some members of staff have been affected.
The exact cause of the deaths has yet to be confirmed.
Five of these deaths occurred in a cluster over the past five days. The deaths occurred at the Nazareth House home in Fahan, near Buncrana.
The HSE says it is is fully investigating the matter and all appropriate treatment and control measures have been put in place. All residents in the nursing home are currently receiving either active or preventative treatment.
Laboratory tests and swabs were taken today and the HSE hopes to have results sometime tomorrow.
Samples have also been sent to the National Virus Reference Laboratory for examination.
The HSE said today none of the remaining residents at the home who became ill are in a critical condition.
Dr Darina O' Flanagan of the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) indicated today the illness at the nursing home could be influenza, although other possible viral or bacterial causes were possible.
Director of Public Health in HSE North-West Dr Peter Wright said the local public health department was closely managing and monitoring the situaiton and was working with the management of the nursing home to determine the nature of the illness.
The safety body HIQA is currenrly visiting the home, which has previously had positive inspection reports.
Questions have been raised about whether people continued to be admitted to the Donegal home after evidence emerged of the infection outbreak.
Recently-published guidelines from the HSE state that influenza is a significant cause of death and hospitalisation, especially among the elderly and frail in residential care settings such as nursing homes, and can also cause illness among personnel working in such facilities.
The document says studies which have examined laboratory confirmed influenza in residents in residential care facilities cite seasonal rates of influenza of between 2%-16% of residents.
During outbreaks of influenza in nursing homes, attack rates of laboratory-confirmed influenza can be as high as 40%, the guidelines state.
The HSE guidelines say residential care facilities are considered to be high risk environments for flu due to the older age of residents, the high prevalence of chronic medical conditions, communal living arrangements and the continual close proximity of residents.
The document outlines detailed guidelines and precautions aimed at preventing and managing flu outbreaks in nursing homes.
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