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Four victims in nursing home outbreak got flu jab

FOUR of the victims of the deadly influenza outbreak at a nursing home had been vaccinated against the virus.

Six elderly people have died as a result of the outbreak at the Nazareth House in Donegal.

However, in two-thirds of the cases, the residents had received an anti-flu injection, raising serious doubts over the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Dr Peter Wright, director of public health, HSE North West, said today it is important to bear in mind the "immune response" among elderly people is not as effective as with younger patients.

He also said there is a concern from the European Centre for Disease Control that there may be a "slight mismatch between a circulating strain of virus and the protection that comes from the vaccine itself".

Dr Wright added: "That is something that will be further investigated by the European authorities and by the World Health Organisation.

"I would strongly encourage everybody who needs a vaccine to have the vaccine because they will definitely get a large degree of protection anyway."

He said the HSE is concerned about a "small number" of other residents but he would "like to respect their right to privacy and not give any further details on that".

Dr Wright said they were called in on Sunday evening and declared an outbreak.

"We would like to be called into these situations at the earliest possible moment. But that really is a matter of judgment for the institution and for the medical officers employed by the institution," he said.

Admitted

It has also emerged that a new resident was admitted to the home after four of the victims had already died.

"At that point an outbreak hadn't been declared and a diagnosis hadn't been made of influenza. Again it was before I was called in so I can't comment in any detail on that," Dr Wright said.

"Since we declared the outbreak on Sunday night we would say there have been no new admissions to the unit," he said. Healthy residents at the home were not separated from those infected until after the HSE was called in.

Tests carried out at the National Virus Reference Laboratory confirmed the illness was Influenza A (H3). It is understood 11 residents are still displaying flu-like symptoms.

In a statement, the Sisters of Nazareth, the order of nuns that runs the home, expressed their deepest condolences.

All but one of the funerals of those who died have already taken place. Sister Eugene Fullerton, who worked at Nazareth House and lived in the convent beside it, will be buried later today in Cockhill.

comurphy@herald.ie


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