An outbreak of a respiratory illness that led to pneumonia occurred in a Connecticut nursing home and claimed four lives before it was controlled. Now that nursing home has been fined $2,000 in connection with the handling of the outbreak after the Connecticut Department of Public Health determined errors occurred.
The Durham nursing home had 10 percent of its residents contract pneumonia by April 15 but did not report the condition as an outbreak until nine days later on April 24. The disease continued to spread until 20 percent of the residents and three staff members were ill by April 30. Of the residents who became ill, four eventually died in late April at the nursing home or at area hospitals. Reports indicate that all four had underlying problems at the time of their deaths but that their deaths were due to pneumonia.
The nursing home reportedly addressed the outbreak internally on April 24. At that time, employees were instructed to perform extra cleanings in the common areas and they were given instructions on how to limit the spread of the disease. Though the training was provided, the Department of Public Health has alleged that appropriate measures were not practiced and therefore the pneumonia continued to risk the health of residents. According to the citation, the employees did not quarantine those who were already sick and that staff did not wear masks while caring for the ill.
The elderly, together with young children and those with underlying health conditions, are at the greatest risk for contracting pneumonia and also the greatest risk of dying from the disease. This is one of the reasons that the pneumoccocal polysaccharide vaccine is recommended for all Americans over age 65. Though there is a vaccine for pneumonia, it is important to remember that the vaccine is only effective against 23 strains of bacterial pneumonia and that it is effective for only 60-80 percent of adults who receive it. This means that even if an elderly nursing home patient receives the vaccination, there is still a great need to exercise caution around anyone sick with pneumonia. In this case, the employees reportedly failed to take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the disease and as a result more vulnerable residents became ill. Four of them were too ill to recover.