Are Illinois Nursing Homes Prepared to Prevent Coronavirus from Spreading?
Sicknesses can quickly spread when people are in closer proximity because viruses loom in the air and on surfaces that are touched and shared. Nursing home residents are often enclosed within shared spaces for eating, socializing and living, making the facilities home to several highly contagious viruses. As U.S. cases of the Wuhan Coronavirus continue to rise, including an elderly couple from Chicago, Illinois, nursing homes should be well-informed and prepared to handle a potential case of an infectious disease outbreak related to the sometimes-deadly respiratory illness.
As of February 5, 2020, the facts about Coronavirus according to news sources and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include:
- The CDC is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
- The CDC suggests that the respiratory virus is spreading much like flu.
- Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 27,000 people and killed more than 500, almost all in mainland China.
- Twelve cases of the Coronavirus have been confirmed in 6 U.S. states, including a couple in their 60s in Chicago. CBS Chicago reported that the woman had recently returned from Wuhan, and was being treated for the virus at St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates. The woman’s husband, who had not been in China, was also diagnosed with the virus making this the first known case of human-to-human transmission of Coronavirus in the U.S.
- The most recent patient is being treated in Madison, Wisconsin.
- CDC updates its website with the latest virus information. The most recent update showed out of the 293 Americans tested for the virus, 206 tested negative, and 76 are still pending.
- Hundreds of Americans who recently traveled to China are isolating themselves for 14 days.
Even with regulatory requirements led by inspections and routine reporting, infection continues to be a leading cause of death and needless suffering for nursing home residents. Infectious disease response plans should be familiar for Illinois nursing home workers, who are required to be routinely trained in how to prevent and control outbreaks of viruses including influenzas, and new transmittable illnesses such as the Coronavirus. Healthcare professionals should know how to evaluate sick patients and react to symptoms appropriately. The CDC suggests that guidance developed for influenza pandemic preparedness would be appropriate in the event the current outbreak triggers a pandemic in the U.S.
Chicago-Area Nursing Homes Struggle Most with Disease Control
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 380,000 nursing home residents die each year due to infections, including the spread of viruses. And using data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from 2019, hundreds of nursing homes in Illinois received a low care rating for programs that investigate, control, and keep infections from spreading. Citations for the last three years reveal more than a dozen of these facilities are housed in Chicago and were given the lowest grade possible, an “F”, in protecting residents from preventable harm, injury, and death related to disease control. Currently, there are 186 nursing homes within 25 miles from the center of Chicago.
Disease and dangerous outbreaks often occur in nursing homes because:
- Infectious agents can survive in and on people, as well as in the environment.
- Vulnerable residents have frequent contacts with staff, other residents, visitors, and the environment.
- The immune system of vulnerable residents can be easily overwhelmed.
- Lack of standard infection control precautions are followed by all staff, all the time, including the use of gowns/gloves and other equipment to prevent the spread of germs.
- Failure to detect an outbreak when it arises from a single source within a short space of time.
- Lack of communication processes for notifying residents, family members and visitors of infectious outbreaks to decrease the chance of spreading the infection.
- Understaffed and underfunded nursing homes remain a disastrous yet preventable cause of most resident complications.
The most common reason infection can be spread is due to staff who consciously disregard preventative measures such as washing their hands or sterilizing equipment before providing care to residents.
Disease-Related Complications Often Hit Targeted Residents
The most common types of disease outbreaks in care homes are respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections. Other infections and bacteria found in nursing home facilities include Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), Clostridium difficile (C. diff), catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI), Influenza, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and Norovirus.
Residents and their family members should be aware that there is a higher chance of getting an infection when living at a nursing home or long-term care facility than they likely would at home. Complications with these infections mostly affect people who are 65 and older who have underlying illnesses, such as memory disorders, heart disease, diabetes or lung disease. There are three common infection-related complications in this group of elderly individuals including, pneumonia, sepsis, and cardiac-related issues such as heart attack or stroke.
All nursing home facilities should have an infectious disease strategy, and an illness outbreak prevention plan, carried out by fully trained and responsible staff. When administrators fail to prevent diseases from spreading or respond to an outbreak, facilities could be held accountable for related deaths or injuries.
Respected Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys
If a loved one has sustained a virus-related complication resulting from neglect or missed medical diagnosis or delayed treatments provided by nursing home physicians, or due to dangerously low staffing levels, they may be entitled to compensation. There is a time limit to file a nursing home neglect case in Illinois, so please contact us now for a free consultation with one of our skilled nursing home attorneys or call us at (312) 332-2872.
Source: Curran ET (2017) Infection outbreaks in care homes: prevention and management. Nursing Times [online]; 113: 9, 18-21.
Also read: Can Nursing Homes Superbugs Be Washed Away?