Flu caused care home deaths

Published Tuesday, 03 April 2012
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Six elderly residents at a private nursing home in Co Donegal died from flu, tests have revealed.

The deaths occurred in the last two weeks at Nazareth House, Fahan, near Buncrana - with five happening over a five-day period and the most recent on Monday.

The average age of those who passed away is said to be 92 and all of them are understood to be from the Donegal area.

A further 11 others are also suffering from respiratory conditions similar to the residents who died, according to the Health Service Executive. In total, 27 have shown symptoms.

On Tuesday evening, the HSE said tests on samples taken from residents tested positive for everyday influenza A (H3).

Dr Peter Wright, director of public health in the HSE North West, said: "While flu is usually a relatively mild infection it can be a very serious illness among the elderly and is a common cause of death in older people."

He added that officials will continue to manage and monitor the situation closely.

The Sisters of Nazareth order, which runs the home, have expressed their condolences to the families of the deceased and insist that the highest standard of care is being provided.

A spokesman said: "This is an extremely upsetting time for the families of the deceased and we continue to provide the residents at Nazareth Nursing Home with the highest standard of care."

The full scale investigation was launched after health chiefs were notified of the deaths which occurred between March 22 and April 2.

A quarantine zone has been thrown up around the privately run care home, which is off the main road between Buncrana and Londonderry and is considered to be one of the area's most reputable.

There has been shock in the area at the high number of deaths. Local Fine Gael councillor Peter McLaughlin said he wants a number of questions to be answered.

"Families will want answers, so will staff members who've provided a great service through the years," Mr McLaughlin told UTV.

"This reflects on them so they'll want it to be cleared up.

"We're not getting any information but it seems strange to me that they can admit people on a Saturday and close the place down on a Sunday.

"They had to know before Saturday that something was wrong so there should have been no admittance to this unit."

Anti-viral treatments have been given to all of the residents. Microbiologist specialists were part of a team of health officials also sent to the home.

Health chiefs believe the outbreak has not spread to other care homes in the area.

© UTV News
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