11/19/10 — Health officials keep eye on center outbreak

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Health officials keep eye on center outbreak

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 19, 2010 1:46 PM

Recent weeks have been particularly busy for the Health Department, since the hepatitis B outbreak at GlenCare assisted living facility in Mount Olive, where eight cases were diagnosed and five residents died.

Two state reports released over the past week have attributed possible causes of the outbreak to multiple uses of glucometer pens.

Josa Raynor-Vaughn, communicable disease program manager, told the Board of Health Wednesday that the Health Department had participated in the investigation of the facility and put several control measures into place at the outset. In addition to urging proper use of handwashing techniques, she said staff recommendations included single-use needles or syringes or at the very least, not to re-use medical devices on patients.

Letters were also sent out to clients who had lived at the facility since January 2010, Mrs. Raynor-Vaughn said, since hepatitis has a six-month incubation period.

"We also tested the residents down there and those that were susceptible to hepatitis B have received the vaccine as of (Wednesday)," she said. "We're going to go back and retest to make sure that the vaccine that they got is causing them to have immunity.

"We also advised that all the direct care staff be vaccinated."

Mrs. Raynor-Vaughn pointed out that most of the patients who died had additional medical problems, which were worsened by the transmission of hepatitis B.

"A lot of them had open wounds ... some had coronary artery disease," she said. "Some of the people that passed away did use substances and some of them did have sex. That's the gist of it. It is what it is."

The environmental health section of the Health Department, along with the state, is also involved in the inspection of assisted living and nursing homes, Mrs. Raynor-Vaughn said.

"I think here in this place, the people that did the testing, they were not licensed," she said. "They were what we call med techs and they have certified nursing assistants but the RN was not there. I think she may come in once or twice a month to check things."

GlenCare administrators recently announced that they have hired an RN to more closely monitor glucose testing since the outbreak.

James Roosen, health director, said he has been working on expanding methods of conducting inspections at such sites. He said there is obviously a need to better assess how instruments are sanitized and whether there are issues of cross contamination.

"That's what it sounds like happened (at GlenCare) and there's a lot of other illnesses we need to be concerned with," he said.