WRAL Investigates

Sixth hepatitis death reported at assisted living center

Posted December 1, 2010

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— A sixth person has died as a result of a hepatitis B outbreak at a Wayne County assisted living center, officials said Wednesday.

Carolyn Philips, 64, died on Nov. 23 after a lengthy hospitalization for hepatitis, according to her family. She had been a resident at Glen Care of Mount Olive between June and August, her family said.

Public health officials haven't confirmed that the illness caused Philips' death, but they did acknowledge that a sixth death was linked to the outbreak at Glen Care.

Ten Glen Care residents have contracted hepatitis since August, state officials said. Eight cases had been reported previously, but officials said follow-up tests on two other residents showed that they had antibodies that indicated they had the illness but had recovered on their own.

The conditions of the remaining two residents who contracted hepatitis was unknown Wednesday.

Investigators with the state Division of Public Health issued a report last month that said unsafe practices with blood-glucose monitors likely spread the illness. The monitors were sometimes stored together, weren't labeled with residents' names and weren't disinfected after each use, according to investigators.

A subsequent report by the state Division of Health Service Regulation included information from Glen Care staffers who said lancing devices for blood-glucose testing had to be shared by all patients, and workers weren't sure if the devices were cleaned before and after each use.

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.

Glen Care officials have denied any responsibility for the hepatitis outbreak, suggesting it was caused by people coming in from outside or by residents sharing drinks or having unprotected sex. Medical technicians said they never told state investigators that they used the same glucose monitors on different patients.

Glen Care disputes state findings in hepatitis outbreak Facility disputes state findings in hepatitis outbreak

The officials said in a response to the Division of Health Service Regulation report that they "strongly disagree" with the state's findings and have asked for a meeting with regulators. The officials called statements by some workers "a complete fabrication" and noted that the operations manager has since resigned and that at least one medical technician "no longer works in this facility."

The Division of Health Service Regulation ordered Glen Care to improve its infection-control practices by Nov. 19. The corrective plan included appointing a staff member to coordinate infection control, providing staff training on proper procedures and having a registered nurse or pharmacist observe blood-glucose monitoring of patients at least once a week.

It was unclear Wednesday whether state inspectors have checked Glen Care in the past two weeks to determine if the center has complied with the plan. Glen Care officials said in their response that they have had stringent infection-control practices in place for years.

The state hasn't yet determined how much to fine Glen Care for the violations found by inspectors. State law allows a fine of $1,000 to $20,000 per day.

More than 50 residents remain at Glen Care.

21 Comments

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  • Clarity Dec 2, 2010

    I wonder WHEN the NC Department of Health and Human Services is going to issue an advisory about this. They used to be reactive, but now they got worse. They just ignore any public health issue!

  • Whatever Geez Dec 2, 2010

    Dido: yes they have been tested.

    The lady came to Glencare with some type of disease; she had to be put into a room by herself and ppl had to wear gloves...

    seriously...if one person gets it, it can get to others, that is why its called an outbreak...

  • annemarek Dec 1, 2010

    Heavenscent-When obtaining a drop of blood and test for blood sugar levels a test strip is used. It does not actually touch the machine itself. First you obtain blood with a lancet and place the test strip so blood is sort of sucked up by the test strip. The part where the blood is does not go inside the machine. The lancet holder would be more suspect. But which patient had Hep. B ? and when did they get Hep. B. ?
    Not all State facilities have individual blood testing kids. All is said and done-someone has to have Hep. B to spread the disease. I think Dido has good points.

  • Dido Dec 1, 2010

    "Glen Care officials have denied any responsibility for the hepatitis outbreak, suggesting it was caused by people coming in from outside or by residents sharing drinks or having unprotected sex."
    Have the staff members been tested to see if any of them are Hep B positive?

  • RB-1 Dec 1, 2010

    Annemarek - "I do not think it is required that each patient have their own blood testing machines."

    If you take a pipette containing a drop of blood and stick it into a machine for testing, something in that machine has to touch that blood to test it, and that contaminates that part of the machine.

    Manufacturers across the nation offer those hand-held units for free, if a patient will agree to use their test strips.

    So why aren't facilities doing that to get free machines to test the blood of each and every patient individually and safely???

  • RB-1 Dec 1, 2010

    I don't understand why those who used contaminated tools and equipment aren't being charged with murder.

  • annemarek Dec 1, 2010

    Cleaning is usually with just soap and water. I do not think it is required that each patient have their own blood testing machines. I worked in a state facility where only one machine for unit. I am suspect that the cause of how Hep B. spread is still not found.

  • annemarek Dec 1, 2010

    Generally health care workers are required to have had the Hep B vaccine, so the workers coming in and out of the facility would be immunized against it.lroyal10900
    No one requires health care workers to have Hep B vaccine series. They only offer it and the worker can decline by signing a refusal form.

  • kikinc Dec 1, 2010

    lroyal-You are correct. I work in cancer research, and the hep B vaccine is mandatory for me, even though I don't have direct patient contact.

  • bradcooperisinnocent Dec 1, 2010

    How narcissistic are these Kornegays that they have to integrate a "K" into what turned into a hideous logo? God help those poor residents.

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