UPDATED: SIX nursing home patients who died in the past ten days were probably killed by a strain of the flu virus, experts said today.
The well-known nursing home has been plunged into the national spotlight after the deaths of six patients in recent days.
All the patients, including an elderly nun, are believed to have died as a result of a respiratory illness.
Donegaldaily.com was contacted by relatives of several patients who expressed concern at what had happened.
Of the 39 patients at the home, it is understood that 11 others are also being treated after showing signs of a similar condition, while 16 others are being given preventative care.
Dr Peter Wright, director of public health with the HSE North West, said all precautions are being taken to rectify the situation.
“There has been a clinical improvement in quite a number of the 27 people showing respiratory symptoms. They are all being treated and we would hope they would improve.
“Respiratory illness is very common but there is not a lot of influenza being reported in general,” he said.
However at least one local politician is now asking if enough was done when it became apparent that something was seriously wrong at the home.
Buncrana Town Councillor Peter McLaughlin said that he personally knows of one patient who was transferred from a nursing home in Buncrana to the Fahan centre last Thursday.
He says a full timeline of incidents must be made available to see if lives could have been saved or if other patients were put at risk.
Cllr McLaughlin said there are many questions which management at the nursing home must answer.
“These are the questions we must ask – the when, why and how? They are very important.
“We need to see if the correct procedures were followed.
“I understand personally that one patient was admitted to Nazareth House last Thursday during all of this.
“What I want to know is if other people were transferred into the beds of the six people who passed away.
“I want to know how this entire incident has been handled from start to finish and those details must be made public,” he said.
Swabs have been taken from these affected elderly residents which have been sent for analysis in Dublin.
It is expected they will confirm the nature of the outbreak by this evening.
Dr Darina O’Flanagan, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said it is suspected the deaths were as a result of a respiratory-related virus outbreak.
“This could be a particular strain of influenza prevalent this year, which was more likely to affect older people.
“If this is flu, there is a type of virus this year that is more associated with the elderly,” she said.
Dr Peter Wright, director of public health, HSE North West, said: “Respiratory illness is a common cause of death in older people. The public health team will work closely with the nursing home management to determine the nature of the illness. Samples have been sent to the National Viral Reference Laboratory for determination.”
Last night the daughter of one patient told donegaldaily.com: “There’s talk that this may be a strain of the flu and obviously we are really worried, especially after all these deaths.”
The nursing home has a reputation for a high standard of care, having been inspected on numerous occasions and praised in HSE reports.