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Source of hepatitis outbreak at assisted living center still unclear

Posted November 11, 2010
Updated November 17, 2010

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— Public health investigators haven't identified the source of a hepatitis B outbreak at a Wayne County assisted living center, but the facility's owner said Thursday that they are looking at a diabetes pen shared among residents as a possible culprit.

State health officials said Thursday that five residents of Glen Care of Mount Olive who have died since August had the disease. Three other residents have contracted the disease but have survived, officials said. The deceased ranged in age from 63 to 83.

Glen Care owner Glenn Kornegay said at a Thursday morning news conference that investigators with the state Division of Public Health informed his staff that five medical technicians had reused diabetes pens, a device used to check the blood-glucose levels of diabetic patients.

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.

Kornegay said all of the technicians have denied using a diabetes pen on more than one patient, and they have denied telling investigators that they did.

Jim Jones, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said investigators haven't shared their findings with Glen Care staff, although state regulators might have discussed some concerns with staffers. The findings are expected to be released in the coming days, Jones said.

Glen Care officials said they don't know how the hepatitis spread, but they defended their staff.

"We take this very seriously. We are heartbroken. We really are," said Anne Kornegay, a vice president of the firm that owns the assisted living center. "I know in my heart they have not deliberately done anything improper."

Glen Care owner Glen Kornegay Web only: Staff of assisted living center defend selves after hepatitis outbreak

Medical technician Bryan Stroud said it was "common sense" not to use the same blood-glucose monitor for several patients. Sheila Ashford, another technician, said she's worked at Glen Care for 13 years and has never seen it done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that glucose meters not be shared, and if they are, they should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.

"We can't fix what we don't know," Anne Kornegay said. "Whatever it is, whenever it's detected, we will fix it. A lot of times, it goes undetermined."

She and others suggested that residents could have spread the disease by sharing drinks or having sex.

"These people have a right to (have intimate relationships), and we will not interfere with them," said Betty Merritt, a nurse at Glen Care. "We encourage safe sex just like you do with your teenager. Of course, people are going to do what they want to do."

Public health officials have said seven of the eight people who contracted hepatitis had diabetes, and the state Division of Health Service Regulation issued a six-point corrective plan to Glen Care for infection control.

By Nov. 19, the facility must appoint a staff member to coordinate infection-control measures at the facility, provide staff training on proper procedures and have a registered nurse or pharmacist observe blood-glucose monitoring of patients at least once a week, according to the corrective plan.

Glen Care of Mount Olive Source of hepatitis outbreak at assisted living center still unclear

Glen Care officials said they already have infection-control measures in place, but in response to the state's corrective plan, they said they now wash their medical instruments with a bleach solution instead of just soap and water.

The fifth death has not been definitively linked to hepatitis B, but it is consistent with other deaths in the outbreak, officials said.

Donnie Ballard said that his 72-year-old father-in-law was diagnosed with hepatitis B at Glen Care and was hospitalized after becoming disoriented and weak. His father-in-law died at the hospital last Friday, he said.

Ballard said that Glen Care never notified his family about the hepatitis outbreak or his father-in-law's illness. The family got the news from hospital doctors, he said.

All residents in the facility were tested for hepatitis B in October, health officials said, and Glen Care offered free vaccination shots to those who aren't immune to the virus.

25 Comments

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  • dee2010 Nov 12, 2010

    As a previous employee here, please get your family out of this place. Yes he says that they used more gloves than any other but the hid gloves from us and there were plenty of times we went without gloves for over an hour because they were locked away. How would you like to get a shower after a person just did and the shower chair wasnt cleaned off after that person, just sprayed water on it. Or better yet waking up to roaches in your bed? I had to quit this place because I couldnt handle the horrible conditions this place is in.

  • carolinaprincess62 Nov 12, 2010

    RN2005, Med Aides (these are not technicians and do not have enough training to be called that) CAN give injections of insulin. They cannot give other medications such as heparin nor can they give IM injections in most cases. Most of theme have very little medical background and give medications based on what is in the bubble card provided by the pharmacy.
    Most of the smaller facilities have no licensed people except someone to come in and review pharmacy records on a routine basis. The oversight is provided by the county with a yearly visit from the state.
    And as lovesomegolo said, these facilities in this chain are mainly managed by family members of the Kornegays. And most of the department heads have been with them for years including maintenance and dietary. There are some managers with no family connections and they are held to a far higher standard than the relatives are.

  • pjdm35377 Nov 11, 2010

    My aunt used to be in the facility and I was not impressed with them. We were so glad when she found somewhere else to go!

  • beachboater Nov 11, 2010

    I am familiar with the facility. I guess you could say I am very familiar with the facility until a year ago (my mother passed away).

    The med techs there showed nothing but love and compassion to my mother. I would have to see some clear and convincing evidence before I could think their was even a remote possibility that lancets were reused. I just can't see it.

    BTW,I was at the news conference. Two stations were invited, WRAL and Channel 9 I believe. Others showed up and only those were asked to leave. That included time warner's channel 14.
    Both local newspapers were also present.

  • beachboater Nov 11, 2010

    "Yet another reason I don't eat Mt. Olive Pickles." cameronraejones

    That's your loss my friend. Of course if you don't eat them, that just leaves more for the rest of us. :-)

  • Whatever Geez Nov 11, 2010

    I'm not involved directly but I know the bad decisions that have been happening.

  • JennaRink Nov 11, 2010

    LoveSomeGolo - that wasn't a "comeback". But I do know a little about the facility (maybe not as much as you) and I think that if you're involved to the point you insinuate, you really shouldn't be posting anything about the case at all.

  • Whatever Geez Nov 11, 2010

    What a comeback Jenna....I DO know MORE about the situation. I cannot release my information of course DUH..read between the lines

  • whatelseisnew Nov 11, 2010

    Well well, how could this happen. Why Why we have all these PUBLIC OFFICIALS preventing these things. Oh yeah, that is right, the reality is they prevent nothing.

  • grichardson05 Nov 11, 2010

    Just saw "spokesperson" on TV talking about how patients at facility have ability to go to the corner store and mix with people outside of the facility. Sounds as if she was laying the groundwork to blame a patient for being the source of the illness. From her comments, I didn't hear any recognition that a staff member with the same access could not have been the source, and reports seem to downplay that a shared needle or insulin pen could be to blame. I take insulin twice a day, and use a fresh syringe each time. You can use an insulin pen and change the needle point each time and still have contamination because the cartridge containing the insulin gets reused. They should NEVER be used for multiple patients. For common sense to be so common, it's amazing that so few have it.

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