Virus suspected as cause of nursing home deaths

Dr Darina O’Flanagan, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said it is suspected the six deaths at a Donegal nursing home were as a result of a virus.

Dr Darina O’Flanagan, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said it is suspected the six deaths at a Donegal nursing home were as a result of a virus.

Test results are due this evening from residents at the private nursing home in near Buncrana where six people died from a respiratory illness in the last 12 days. The deaths occurred between March 22 and April 2.

Twenty-seven other residents at Nazareth House in Fahan are ill with symptoms, although none of these are in a critical condition. Dr O’Flanagan said “all the appropriate measures have been put in place”.

Investigations are being carried out by the Health Service Executive and officials from the Health Information and Quality Authority.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre says it looks like the deaths could have been caused by a viral illness or a strain of flu. It has been reported that this could be a particular strain of influenza prevalent this year, which was more likely to affect older people.

“If this is flu, there is a type of virus this year that is more associated with the elderly,” Dr O’Flanagan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme. Anti-viral treatments have been given to all of the residents.

Buncrana town councillor, Peter McLaughlin, said there was “a lot of concern” in the area since the news of the deaths broke. Praising the nursing home, he commented, “if you were in a position where you needed to use a nursing home, Nazareth House would be the home you would wish to go to, to be looked after”.

He said the events of the last 12 days “have come out of the blue” and the home “was well regarded”.

He said locally people became aware that something wasn’t quite right on Sunday when visitor restrictions were put in place. From Sunday there was “a lock-down” at Nazareth House.

Cllr McLaughlin said he welcomed the news that a full scale investigation was underway and added that “lessons may be learned” in relation to how the problem was dealt with. He added that it was at a very early stage as yet and he and others would take a ‘wait and see’ approach.

Meanwhile, a quarantine zone has been put in place at Nazareth House.

Yesterday evening the HSE issued a statement revealing the deaths had occurred and that a full scale investigation was underway.

Health Minister James Reilly and Minister for Older People, Kathleen Lynch issued a statement saying they had learned with regret of the deaths and are being kept fully informed.

The ministers both expressed their sympathy to the families of the deceased residents.