6 deaths at Halifax nursing home connected to outbreak of respiratory virus
Kieran Leavitt, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017 2:38AM EDT
HALIFAX -- Public health officials have linked six deaths at a Halifax nursing home to an ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority said it was notified April 4 about a likely outbreak of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) on one floor at Arborstone Enhanced Care in Armdale, and it spread to a second floor a week later.
Dr. Trevor Arnason, the medical officer of health for the Halifax area, said Tuesday more than 30 people have been hit by the virus, and six have died.
"The number of deaths in this case is a bit unusual," Arnason said during an interview.
But he said such outbreaks are not unusual, and RSV is especially dangerous to people with compromised immune systems and those at end-of-life stages.
Katherine VanBuskirk, a spokesperson with Shannex Inc., which runs the nursing home, confirmed in an email the outbreak is ongoing.
She said staff "hold daily meetings to evaluate the status of the outbreak and take appropriate action."
Arnason said facilities are required to inform the authority of any respiratory illness outbreak, and it's the authority's job to help them implement control measures.
The authority has received 25 outbreak reports from various facilities this year. Staff are told to follow certain guidelines like wearing more personal protective gear, moving patients away from those infected and increasing hand hygiene, said Arnason.
"There isn't anything in this case to suggest that the guidelines weren't followed as they should be," he said.
He said outbreaks in facilities like Arborstone are difficult to contain because people live in close quarters, and there is a lot of staff-to-patient contact.
The nursing home is not taking any new admissions or transfers and has restrictions on many activities.
Typically, RSV is relatively harmless and its symptoms include those similar to what someone would experience with a cold or flu.