Seventh resident of home dies as a result of flu virus

A VIRULENT influenza strain that killed six people in a Donegal nursing home claimed another victim yesterday, the Health Service…

A VIRULENT influenza strain that killed six people in a Donegal nursing home claimed another victim yesterday, the Health Service Executive has said.

The seventh resident to die from flu virus A (H3) had been transferred from Nazareth House private nursing home, Fahan, near Buncrana, to Letterkenny General Hospital.

The death followed that of a patient at the home on Friday which was not thought to be caused by the virus.

In a statement yesterday, the HSE said an additional seven residents at the nursing home who had been diagnosed with the condition were being monitored.


Five of these were “showing definite signs of improvement”.

No new cases of the flu had been diagnosed at the home since April 4th, the HSE said.

The first death at the home occurred on March 22nd, there were two deaths on March 29th, one death on the 31st and one each on April 1st and 2nd.

Three of the residents had been transferred to Letterkenny General Hospital before they died, and three had died in the home.

The outbreak was notified to the HSE by a GP who had visited the home on Sunday, April 1st.

Tests carried out by the National Viral Reference Laboratory, in University College Dublin, confirmed the virus as influenza A (H3).

The Buncrana outbreak has been one of the most devastating in any single hospital or home to occur in the State.

In 2008, three patients at St Ita’s Hospital in Portrane, north Dublin, died following an outbreak of flu there. They had been staying in an old-age psychiatric ward at the hospital where eight patients had contracted the flu in March that year.

This year, eight other influenza outbreaks have been reported to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

These included three in community hospitals/long-stay units and two in residential units. They resulted in three deaths.

The 2011-2012 flu season has been described as mild and is believed to have peaked.

In a statement yesterday, the HSE said all residents in Nazareth House were receiving either active or preventative treatment.

“The HSE North West public health team including medical doctors, nurses and surveillance scientists continue to closely manage and monitor the situation,” the statement said.

The HSE also called on people visiting older residents of nursing homes, including healthcare staff, to ensure their vaccinations for influenza are up to date.

Buncrana Fine Gael councillor Peter McLaughlin said locals were saddened by news of the most recent death, but there was recognition of the high standard of care provided at the home.

He said people also recognised that in frail older people flu was a very difficult thing to deal with.

The outbreak appeared to be “one of those uncontrollable things”, he said.

The Irish Patients Association yesterday called on Minister for Health James Reilly to set up a serious incident review group so that all agencies could provide a unified report on what had occurred at Nazareth House.

The HSE, the Health Information and Quality Authority, and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre all carried out separate investigations at the home.

Chief executive of the organisation Stephen McMahon told The Irish Times he believed all the agencies were doing good work, but there was a risk important lessons could be missed if they did not “join up all the dots”.

He also urged the Minister to set up a national vaccination register so that if problems occur, officials can get access to data as quickly as possible.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist