Thursday 23 January 2020

Home hit by seventh death in flu outbreak

Colm Kelpie and Stephen Maguire

A SEVENTH person has died from an outbreak of flu at a Donegal nursing home.

The HSE said the elderly patient at Nazareth House, Fahan, had been previously diagnosed as having influenza A (H3) -- the strain that had claimed six lives between March 22 and April 2.

The patient died at Letterkenny General Hospital yesterday.

Health chiefs are closely monitoring seven people at the private nursing home near Buncrana.

However, five are said to be showing "definite" signs of improvement and no other patients have been diagnosed with the condition since April 4.

In a statement, the HSE said: "All residents in the nursing home are currently receiving either active or preventative treatment.

"The HSE North West Public Health team, including medical doctors, nurses and surveillance scientists, continues to closely manage and monitor the situation."

It was not clear yesterday whether the dead person had been vaccinated against the flu.

It is understood four of the previous six who died had been vaccinated.

The vaccination reduces flu-related hospitalisation by 50pc-60pc and flu-related deaths by 70pc-80pc.

However, the HSE pointed out that the strain of A (H3) influenza had changed slightly, and did not fit perfectly with the A (H3) component of the seasonal influenza vaccine.

In a separate case, an elderly female resident died at the nursing home last week, but the HSE confirmed it was not linked to the current outbreak.

The HSE has urged people visiting patients of any nursing home and hospital to ensure that their influenza vaccinations are up to date.

Junior minister Kathleen Lynch has hit out at the delays in informing the health authorities about the deaths.

It is understood the HSE was not informed of the difficulties at Nazareth House until five people had died.

The minister, with responsibility for the elderly, urged all nursing home operators to alert health authorities once something outside the norm occurs.

All those who have died have been in their 80s and 90s including a nun, Sister Eugene Fullerton.

Sr Eugene's sister Kathleen is also staying at the home, but it cannot be confirmed if she is one of the flu patients.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly is expected to order a full inquiry into the deaths at the home that has enjoyed a very good reputation.

Irish Independent

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