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State investigating hepatitis deaths at assisted living center

Posted October 19, 2010

— State public health officials said Tuesday that they are investigating a hepatitis B outbreak at a Wayne County assisted living center that has led to four deaths.

Five people at Glen Care of Mount Olive have tested positive for hepatitis B since August, and four of them have died, officials with the state Division of Public Health said.

The people who died ranged in age from 63 to 83. The lone survivor, who is 57, remains hospitalized, but state officials said that person's condition is improving.

“We are working with facility staff to ensure that any residents or staff who may have been exposed receive proper care and to prevent any further spread of the virus,” State Health Director Dr. Jeffrey Engel said in a statement.

Officials at Glen Care have started testing all residents for hepatitis and, at the urging of public health officials, will likely vaccinate the residents to prevent future hepatitis outbreaks.

State health officials learned about the outbreak last week, and local police were notified Tuesday.

A Glen Care representative declined to comment.

Glen Care of Mount Olive State investigating hepatitis deaths at assisted living center

Hepatitis B is a contagious virus that can cause severe liver problems, and it is typically transmitted by exposure to blood or body fluids. Symptoms include fever, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, dark urine and yellowish skin.

Public health physicians and Wayne County Health Department workers are trying to determine the cause of the infections and to ensure the safety of other residents.

"Compared to hepatitis C or HIV, hepatitis B is a lot heartier, so it will last longer on a surface than HIV would," State Epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies said. "You can transmit it if equipment becomes contaminated, even if it's not visually contaminated."

Glen Care has a three-star rating, out of a possible four, on a state rating system.

"There was nothing egregious going on, like needles being shared or anything like that, but some of the other things that are less obvious, potential risks we did review with (facility managers)," Davies said.

The incubation period for hepatitis B is ranges from six weeks to six months, Davies said. So it's possible that more Glen Care residents could test positive as a result of the outbreak, she said.

The state has sent the operators of 1,300 adult care homes statewide guidelines from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remind them of appropriate infection control procedures.

"In a facility like this, it can often be a health care-related infection, where there's a breakdown in infection-control procedures," Davies said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • dee2010 Oct 25, 2010

    As a previous worker at this place , it is disgusting . Med techs here only had three days on the job training and that is all they need to pass out meds. Residents do fool around with each other but also there was plenty of times when we didnt have gloves to change people. Some people did change people anyway. The administration would hide gloves or lock them away because they thought we were abusing the gloves and using them at the wrong times, which was crazy. You also dont have to have any form of medical training to work there. Anybody off the street could just come in and get a job, and as a person with my CNA am I the only only one who thinks there is something wrong with that? The administration is full of it and dont care about the residents or the workers. If your in this line of work you need to have a certain compassion for dependent people which obviously isnt happening. People need to stop going in there with blinders on and see this isnt right!

  • carolinaprincess62 Oct 20, 2010

    Medication Technicians in these facilities are NOT Medication "Technicians". Medication technicians actually do get training. These people are Medication "Aides"...they pass a test. And it's so easy a Caveman could pass it or a fifth grader! Keep your loved ones at home if you can and if you can't, be prepared to visit frequently and spontaneously. Don't listen when people say they do it because they love people, most do it for the money.

  • kmanc4s Oct 20, 2010

    Anyone consider that some of these old people may be having sex with each other and passing the virus among one another?? It's not impossible...

  • FromClayton Oct 20, 2010

    better check food handeling too. I think Hep B can be transfered from infected food workers. Not positive, but i think it's true.

  • soyousay Oct 19, 2010

    kinght.The Med Techs (Medication Technicians

    you pretty much get what you pay for-.

  • knightingale124 Oct 19, 2010

    The Med Techs (Medication Technicians) referred to in the story have been trained and have passed a test given by the state. The state of North Carolina does NOT require that nurses pass medications in this type of facility.

  • Adelinthe Oct 19, 2010

    We got lucky when my father got Alz and needed to be institutionalized.

    The pharmacist at the facility we chose is a neighbor of ours, and he not only kept an eye on dad daily when he worked, he also had a full understanding of the meds he was on and let us know if something seemed off or something that might be better came along.

    We were very blessed with this arrangement. That's for sure.

    And as someone here recommended, if you have a relative in one of these places, time your visits routinely but very irregularly, cause if the staff can't plan for your visits but know you stop in often, your loved one will be more likely to get better care.

    And don't be afraid to call the authorities if something seems off in the place - odor, or dirty linens lying around, or other patients that seem to be needy and aren't getting attention.

    You'll be glad you did.

    God bless.


  • heels2k Oct 19, 2010

    Just to clarify the comment made by mslrobin2: Med Techs (or Medical Technologists) are laboratory professionals who perform lab tests on patient samples. We are not licensed or permitted to "pass meds." You may be thinking of medical assistants, but I believe it is also illegal for them to administer medications.

  • jae728 Oct 19, 2010

    ll the other ones are dumps, whyw ouldnt this one be?

  • mulecitybabe Oct 19, 2010

    Have they tested staff yet? The hepatitis is coming from somewhere, and it could be staff as easily as patients. An infected staff member could easily spread it around, especially to old folks that have less immunity.