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Hepatitus C outbreak at nursing home

On Wednesday, April 2, 2014, two out of forty-four victims of a Hepatitus C outbreak in a nursing home in Minot, North Dakota, filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking unspecified monetary damages and class action status. The nursing home, Manorcare, is the site of the second largest outbreak of Hepatitus C in United States history; according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak represents one quarter of all Hepatitus C cases reported nationally since 2008.

Your Denver Elder Care Attorney explains that Hepatitus C is a viral infection of the liver that can cause chronic health problems, such as liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, and death. These adverse health effects are likely to be more severe and progress faster in elderly patients. Hepatitus C is spread by direct exposure from someone infected with the virus, the usual route of transmission being blood related. In the Manorcare outbreak, all 44 cases were determined to be genetically linked and therefore traced to one common source. Additionally, only patients at the North Dakota nursing home were affected.

So far, the state and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not determined how patients became infected; i.e. the exact route of transmission has not been identified. Manorcare is using the lack of an identified source of transmission as support for its argument that any lawsuits are premature. But your Denver Elder Care Attorney points out that the real issue is whether an outbreak such as the one that has occurred could have happened in the absence of negligence or a breach of duty in the standard of care owed to the patients at Manorcare. The answer is a resounding no; there had to be a breach of the duty of care and possibly violations of state and federal regulations regarding safe and hygienic operation of the facility in order for an outbreak of the type of infection and the size of the population infected to have occurred. Therefore, the lawsuit is not premature insofar as it is alleging negligence and breach of duty. 

Your Denver Elder Care Attorney notes that other types of infections are common in skilled care facilities and nursing homes. The Centers for Disease Control report that between one and three million infections occur annually in these environments. The residents are susceptible due to their age, weakened immune systems, underlying diseases, and overcrowding in some facilities. Some prevalent infections are urinary tract infections, skin infections, respiratory infections, claustridium, and MRSA. Cleaning, disinfecting, sanitizing, and isolation of any case of infectious disease as soon as it is discovered is crucial to prevention and containment, but many facilities are understaffed and overcrowded as mentioned. However, not every infection in a facility is preventable or the result of negligence. As noted above, residents of skilled care facilities and nursing homes are predisposed to infection and complications due to age, underlying disease processes, and medications they may be taking. 

If you have a loved one who has suffered an illness at a facility and you need help sorting out whether the infection was due to negligence on the part of the facility, contact Jordan Levine, your Denver Elder Care Attorney at Levine Law today.

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