Local News

Another possible hepatitis case found at assisted living center

Posted October 25, 2010 4:49 p.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2010 9:11 p.m. EDT

— As public health officials continue to investigate a hepatitis B outbreak at a Wayne County assisted living center, at least one other resident might have the illness.

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 last week.

On Sunday, a 72-year-old Glen Care resident was admitted to Wayne Memorial Hospital after becoming disoriented and weak, according to his son-in-law, Donnie Ballard.

"The doctor asked my wife, 'How long has your father had hepatitis B?' Our response was, 'What?'" Ballard said Monday.

The illness was documented in his file at Glen Care, he said.

The man was listed in fair condition Monday.

"Right now, we're waiting for the doctors to tell us if they think he's going to make it or not," Ballard said.

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.

The Glen Care residents who died ranged in age from 63 to 83. A 57-year-old was improving last week, although the person remained in the hospital.

Neither state nor local officials would confirm a sixth hepatitis case at Glen Care.

Glen Care officials have declined to comment about the outbreak, but the company issued a statement last week saying that it was working with Wayne County and state public health officials to find the cause.

All residents of the Mount Olive facility are being tested for hepatitis B, and those who aren't immune to the illness will be offered vaccinations, the statement said.

"We have limited blood contact in this facility, with the exception of finger sticks for blood sugar readings," the statement said. "We are looking into our procedure to (ensure) that cross-contamination is not occurring."

Ballard said Glen Care officials never told his family that his father-in-law tested positive for hepatitis B. He said he suspects the staff was trying to cover up the outbreak.

"You think the first thing they would do is pick up the phone and say, 'Your father has hepatitis B,'" he said. "The trust is gone, and I'm not sure how it would come back."

Ballard said he’s seen evidence of improper care at the facility, adding that he’s spotted cuts, scrapes and bruises on his father-in-law.

"I'm not saying all of their facilities are bad. I haven't been to any of the other ones, but this one has definitely got some problems," he said.

Based in Kenansville, Glen Care has at least one other assisted living center, in Bladenboro. It's unclear how many residents are at each facility.

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