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Low RN staffing hours linked to higher hospitalization, mortality rates during norovirus outbreaks, study finds

October 18, 2012
by Sandra Hoban, Executive Editor
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A recent study, which will be published in the October 24 issue of JAMA, found that facilities with fewer daily RN staff hours experienced a significantly higher rate of mortality during a norovirus outbreak than nursing homes that had a high daily RN presence with residents.

The study included 308 Medicare-certified homes in Oregon, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that reported at least one suspected or confirmed outbreak to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (January 2009 to December 2010).

Researchers found that the median length of reported a gastroenteritis outbreak was 13 days. Hospitalizations were reported in 119 cases (29 percent) and 30 deaths (7 percent) were reported during outbreaks. After comparing this data with the hospitalization and mortality rates during non-outbreak periods and adjusting for seasonality, researcher found that hospitalizations and deaths were significantly greater during outbreaks.

Researchers advise that the next step is to investigate if the norovirus infection and gastroenteritis are directly attributable to the increase in hospitalization and mortality.

The authors suggest interventions to prevent or control outbreaks such hydrating residents and practicing effective infection control procedures. They write: “More targeted interventions would be welcome and in light of recent progress with a norovirus vaccine, these results highlight a setting and population that may benefit if efficacy and safety of immunization can be demonstrated.”

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