May 4, 2010

CANADA: Respiratory illness claims 10th victim at Victoria care home

VICTORIA, British Columbia / The Globe and Mail / National News / May 4,  2010

By Wendy Stueck

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

.A 10th person has died in an outbreak of an unidentified respiratory illness at Glengarry Hospital, a residential care home in Victoria.

An elderly man died over the weekend after having been identified as displaying symptoms consistent with the outbreak, Vancouver Island Health Authority spokeswoman Shannon Marshall said Monday.

The man was among three hospital residents that VIHA had been monitoring for respiratory symptoms late last week. Of those three people, one turned out not to have the illness and another has recovered.

The man who died “was a very frail and elderly gentleman who’d had some challenges in aspirating in recent weeks,” Ms. Marshall said.

All 10 people who died in the outbreak were frail and elderly, ranging in age from 81 to 97, and several had dementia.

VIHA announced the outbreak April 22. Some patients had been having respiratory problems, such as coughing and runny noses, since the end of March. But those symptoms at first seemed connected to a norovirus outbreak at the facility that was identified at the beginning of April. After an increase in the number of cases, and several deaths, VIHA announced the respiratory illness outbreak.

To date, the outbreak has affected 21 residents. While 10 have died, the rest are “resolved or improving,” Ms. Marshall said. Three staff members have also been confirmed as meeting the case definition for the outbreak.

“There are a number of viruses circulating in the community, with respiratory illnesses, and while most of those wouldn’t cause any sort of serious illness in healthy adults, they can have a serious impact on frail, elderly people, as we’ve seen in this outbreak,” Ms. Marshall said. “So it’s important to remind people that if they are ill, they should not visit people in acute or residential care sites.”

As a result of the outbreak, VIHA has imposed visiting restrictions and taken other steps to try to limit the spread of the illness, such as closing a common dining area and serving residents meals in their rooms. Most people in the facility are in shared, four-person rooms. Added cleaning measures are in place and the facility is not admitting any new residents.

The residents who have died in the outbreak all had “multiple medical challenges,” VIHA says, and several had been receiving palliative care. Medical reviews are under way to determine how or whether the respiratory condition may have contributed to the deaths.

Laboratory tests at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control have not yet confirmed the organism involved in the respiratory condition, but influenza A and B and H1N1 have been ruled out. [rc]

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