ELIZABETHTOWN — A influenza outbreak over the course of the winter at Essex County’s Horace Nye Nursing Home resulted in two patient deaths.
County officials said an upper-respiratory-tract illness had been impacting the 100-bed facility since late last year.
The Nursing Home was closed to new admissions because of the issue, Administrator Deborah Gifford told the County Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee on Monday morning.
The Nursing Home normally has between one and five empty beds, but it has 15 at present, Gifford said in response to questioning from Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah).
She said there were deaths due to the severe influenza cases.
“We had a situation ... where we didn’t admit due to an infectious situation,” she said. “This (having 15 empty beds) is unprecedented.”
The facility has now reopened to new admissions, County Manager Daniel Palmer said after the committee session.
“It’s the flu season,” he said of the period of illness just passed. “The home normally closes admissions when that happens.”
Palmer said Horace Nye had been closed to new admissions off and on since just after Thanksgiving. Visitors were also restricted at times, he said.
“The basis for closing either a unit or the whole facility is if 10 percent of the residents are sick with a flu or some contagious illness. If two out of the three units (at Horace Nye) have those numbers, then the whole facility is closed. During this period, it was closed off and on, depending on how the residents were doing.”
The residents of Horace Nye are among the most vulnerable members of the population to influenza, he said, because of their advanced age.
Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that causes coughing, fever, body aches, exhaustion and headache. It is usually transmitted by coughing and sneezing.
“During this period, we actually had 12 residents pass away,” Palmer said. “Only two were actually due to the flu.
“One or possibly two others may have been with the flu as a contributing factor, but that is difficult to say for certain. The rest were natural causes.”
The situation at Horace Nye is similar to what happened in 2008, when three residents of the Nursing Home died from a gastrointestinal virus that infected many who lived at the facility.
Although seven other Horace Nye residents died in that same period, those deaths were not related to that outbreak but due to age and the illnesses associated with the aging process, county officials said.
Some of those who died in the 2008 outbreak were especially frail residents in their 90s, officials said.
State Department of Health guidelines for minimizing an outbreak include confining ill residents to their rooms and placing them on cough and sneeze droplet precautions during the time period that they are symptomatic.
The facility is also required to be cleaned repeatedly with disinfecting materials, especially in areas where residents are ill.
Essex County is selling Horace Nye to the Centers for Specialty Care of the Bronx, with the new owner expected to be running the place by the end of the year.
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