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HIQA and HPSC outline factors associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in nursing homes

HIQA and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) have published a joint analysis of factors associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in nursing homes in Ireland. This analysis, was completed following a recommendation by the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel.

The analysis investigated factors associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in HIQA-registered nursing homes and covered the period prior to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Dr Conor Teljeur, HIQA’s Chief Scientist, said: “Older people, particularly those who are frail or medically compromised, are at a higher risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19. Those living in nursing homes have been severely impacted, with a disproportionate number of deaths during the early stages of the pandemic. Given their vulnerability to COVID-19, there has been an emphasis on safeguarding this population.”

The probability of an outbreak occurring in a nursing home increased with rising community incidence around the home, the number of beds within the home and the presence of other nursing homes in close proximity. In terms of the size of the outbreak, smaller outbreaks were associated with nursing homes having previously experienced an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2. The proportion of residents in a nursing home affected by an outbreak decreased with an increasing number of beds.

Dr Teljeur, continued: “We have outlined factors that were associated with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 in nursing homes during the first and second waves of the pandemic in Ireland. Many of these factors we identified are outside the control of the nursing homes. Also, when comparing publicly and privately operated nursing homes, we noted no significant differences. However, the analysis was limited due to the lack of reliable and consistent data across nursing homes for a number of potentially important factors.”

Dr John Cuddihy, Interim Director of HPSC, highlighted: “Collecting data on potential risk factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks in nursing homes should be considered, although the resources required to collect and maintain the data compared with its usefulness to improve care and inform future decision-making must be examined.”

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